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Full text of "Neumann-Zaharoff the Armaments King (1935)"

ZAHAROFF 

THE 

ARMAMENTS KING 



"Zaharoff the Armaments King" was first 
published in England in 1935 and a new- 
impression followed in 1936. Robert Neumann 
has, for Readers' Union edition (1938), brought 
his Zaharoff "legend" up to date and revised 
various parts of the text. To Readers' Union 
edition has been added a portrait of Zaharoff. 




ZAHAROFF 



ZAHAROFF 

THE 

ARMAMENTS KING 



by 

Robert Neumann 



TRANSLATED BY 
R. T. CLARK 



READERS' UNION LIMITED 
GEORGE ALLEN & UNWIN LTD 



POINT 



This edition, for Readers' Union members only, is possible by 
co-operative reader demand and by the sacrifice of ordinary profit 
margins by all concerned. Such conditions cannot apply under 
the normal hazards of book production and distribution. Reader- 
commentaries on Zaharoff the Armaments King will be found in 
July 1938 issue of Readers' News given free with this volume. 
Membership of Readers' Union can be made at any booksellers' 
shop. 



MADE 1938 IN GREAT BRITAIN. PRINTED BY C. TINLING 
AND CO., LTD., LIVERPOOL, LONDON AND PRESCOT, 
FOR READERS' UNION LTD. REGISTERED OFFICES : 
CHANDOS PLACE BY CHARING CROSS, LONDON, ENGLAND. 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

THE DIFFICULTIES OF A BIOGRAPHER 9 

I. ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN 

FROM THE EAST 19 

A Piece of Universal History — A Piece of Family 
History — The Child is Father of the Man — The 
Case of Haim Sahar of Wilkomir — Sir Basil 
Casanova — The Detective at Work — The First 
Conquest of Athens 

II. DEAD MEN OVERTURE 79 

The Duel with Mr. Maxim — A Stay in Russia — 
Cherche^ la femme — Clouds over South America 
— In the Prime of Life — a portrait — Maxims 
for Budding Armament Kings — The Duel with 
a Gentleman from Le Creusot — The Noise of 
Battle — In the Paris Press — Spring Interlude, 
1914 

ni. ALMOST A MYTHOLOGICAL FIGURE 162 

Chance and mischance — The Second Conquest 
of Athens — Merely Fiction 

IV. THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE 194 

A Little Study in Human Nature — The Invasion 
of France — Blood versus Oil — Unknown Motives 
— The Private War of a Millionaire — Retreat 

V. NATIONS AS PAWNS 241 

Divide et impera — And Germany ? — One Father- 
land less — The milliard-pound Peace 

VI. THE PRIVATE LIFE OF AN OLD GENTLE- 
MAN 265 
A Principality for a Woman — Lies about Zaharoff 
— The end of Zaharoff 

SOURCES 297 

INDEX 299 



THE DIFFICULTIES OF A BIOGRAPHER 

Problem : To write the biography of a man who was still alive 
not so many months ago. He is just as moral, just as immoral as 
any other, neither devil nor saint, and if there is a something 
which makes him different from other creatures who are greedy 
for food and plunder, it is no more than this — that he has done 
his gathering of booty more successfully and more cleverly. His 
plunder has been won on the grand scale, and it is only because 
his success has been on that scale that his cunning, trickery, and 
unscrupulousness seem to have something of grandeur about 
them. His life is an adventurous one, but not a whit more 
adventurous than the times in which it was lived. 

His biographer is faced with extraordinary difficulties. The 
archives of ministries and embassies and those of the great 
armaments firms as well are kept sternly under lock and key, 
and to describe how this or that document printed in this book 
came into the hands of the biographer would need a book in 
itself. 

Add to this that the victim of this biography will not "stand 
still" like the victim of the photographer. He did, and somehow 
still does even after his death, everything he could to confuse the 
picture. You ask for his birth certificate. Alas ! a fire destroyed 
the church registers. You search for a document concerning 
him in the archives of the Vienna War Office. The folder is 
there, but it is empty ; the document has vanished. After all 
sorts of difficulties you obtain permission to inspect the papers 
of a law case. The papers are requested, but, alas I no one in the 
office can find them. He buys a chateau in France and — how 
does the story of the editor of the Documents politique* go ? — 
"Sir Basil Zaharoff at once buys up all the picture postcards in 
the villages of Balincourt, Avrincourt, and the rest which show 
the chateau, and strictly prohibits any more photographs being 
taken." His desire to avoid publicity goes as far as that. And 
again add this, that at a certain epoch in his career Sir Basil 
himself put out the most amazing stories of his adventures that 



IO ZAHAROFF I THE ARMAMENTS KING 

you could imagine — in order to attract attention and arouse 
interest (a process not inimical to business) and also in order to 
confuse the trail. Can one say more ? There are lies told to 
Zaharoff's discredit ; there are lies told to his credit ; and there 
are also lies for which there is no other explanation than the 
vanity of the man who told them. 

The result was that to write this book a new procedure had 
to be found, a method very different from the usual methods 
of the ordinary literary biographer. To track down the facts 
required the diligence not so much of a writer as of a detective. 
Where documents were obtainable they have been reproduced. 
Where witnesses had to be questioned their evidence is given 
as far as possible in their own words, so that the reader can 
himself make up his own mind about their trustworthiness ; 
and that is the more necessary as a whole series of witnesses 
only gave evidence on the strict understanding that their 
names would not be mentioned in this book. As to the wit- 
nesses themselves, two types may be distinguished : those who 
knew something and did not wish to tell, and those who knew 
little or nothing at all and wanted to tell a lot — from sheer 
communicativeness, from a desire to play a part in the drama, 
or simply out of pure good nature in order to make the task of 
the wretched author who had to write a book as easy as possible. 

As an example of the first type, take a short extract from the 
conversation with a former Prime Minister of Greece, a man 
who for twenty years has been one of the leading figures in 
Greek politics, and to whose evidence I shall return time and 
again. (This man who in this book is called "Witness D." 
is not M. Venizelos, and I may as well say this at once and so 
avoid misunderstandings. The interview took place, as, by the 
way, did a good deal of the interviews reproduced in this book, 
before Zaharoff's death.) Like all conversations, this one began 
with his expressing the wish that his name should not be 
mentioned, and with my assurance that it would not be 
mentioned. Then it went on : 



THE DIFFICULTIES OF A BIOGRAPHER II 

i. Your Excellency is said to be a very close friend of Sir 
Basil Zaharoff. 
he. What do you mean by a very close friend ? I only had 
lunch with him once. Oh, there is nothing in sitting 
at table with him : he looks quite a gentleman. 
I. What about 1875, Your Excellency? Do you remember 
what was said then about Basil Zaharoff's time in the 
Garbola prison in Athens in the paper Mikra 
Ephemeris ? 
he. Mikra Ephemeris ? The first time I ever heard of it. And 
what's this about Garbola ? There's no prison of that 
name in Athens. 
1. All right, Your Excellency. But in the Great War ? In the 
position which you held in these days you can't have 
helped being brought into relations with Sir Basil. 
he. Basil Zaharoff was never once in Athens during the War. 
He stayed in London and Paris. 
1. Very good, Your Excellency. But after the Great War ? 
Didn't Sir Basil Zaharoff finance Greece's war with 
Turkey ? 
he. Financed it ? He never spent a pound on it. He just 
thought it rather fine that people should think that 
he could lose so much. 
1. But surely that isn't in keeping with his well-known dis- 
like of publicity ? 
he. Dislike 1 He would rather be known as a mauvais sujet 
than not be known at all. 
1. But you must be aware that other Greek statesmen have 
thought very differently of Basil Zaharoff. Skuludis, 
for example. 
he. Skuludis never was a statesman. He was nothing but a 
lackey of the King. 
1. All right, Your Excellency. Would you tell me something 
of the row between Basil Zaharoff and Venizelos ? 
he. (Suddenly speaking with passion). It was a mighty big 
and bitter row. 
1. You are a Venizelist, Your Excellency ? 
he. Of course I am. 



1 2 ZAHAROFF I THE ARMAMENTS KING 

You see. This really able and farseeing man actually in the 
end was able to contribute something to the character-sketch 
of Sir Basil Zaharoff. Luckily, there were other prominent 
Greeks who were more communicative ; we shall meet them 
later on. This "Witness D." is of the uncommunicative type. 
The task with the communicative is even more difficult. 
Whom should one believe ? I pick at random from my notes 
and find : 

witness RO. . . . and besides, he is the beastliest miser I 
have ever met. I used to feed with him day after day in 
the Cafe de Paris at Monte Carlo. He never took any- 
thing but a bottle of tonic water. Price, one franc fifty. 
He used to pay it out on the table in copper, never left 
even a sou as tip, took his overcoat off the peg and went 
off. 

witness p. ... or look at that picture on the wall, or that 
one. Both are by young Greek artists whom Basil Zaharoff 
paid for to be trained. I could tell of others, too, musi- 
cians, scholars who would have been nothing if it hadn't 
been for him. He's a Maecenas, a philanthropist. 

Note that neither of these witnesses has any connection at all 
with either the political or business life of Greece. P. is an 
English merchant. Ro. is a Hungarian, the agent of a prince, 
a particularly well-informed person and a valuable witness 
whom we shall meet again on more than one page of this book. 
And it is the same all through. The witness D., who, as readers 
of the conversation I have just quoted will admit, can hardly 
be suspected of any partisan sympathy for Basil Zaharoff, 
calls him "a romantic in love who never looked at more than 
one woman all his life." Another distinguished Greek, G., 
and a Russian aristocrat, Baroness P., call him a "ladykiller" 
and add names and dates. On the other hand — to finish with 
this aspect of it for good and all — Ro. and H., at one time a 
beggar in Constantinople and alleged to be one of Sir Basil 



THE DIFFICULTIES OF A BIOGRAPHER 1 3 

Zaharoff's colleagues in the Tatavla fire brigade, said decisively 
that both opinions were not only dubious but demonstrably 
untrue. They had their own ideas on the subject. On this no 
more. It may serve toward the comprehension of the character 
not of Sir Basil Zaharoff but of the sort of witnesses whom I 
have questioned, that a whole series of persons knew all 
about a murderous attack by Basil Zaharoff on a policeman, 
a subject which we shall investigate in more detail later — 
and that in my collection of documents there is the evidence 
of a gentleman, the banker O., who declares that he was 
present when in the year 1875 Basil Zaharoff was shot while 
trying to escape from the prison in Athens. 

That is the man whose biography has to be written in these 
pages. 

What information does he himself supply ? Let us begin with 
the fundamental, the simple things. What are the data regarding 
his birth ? Every Greek is a little Homer — that is precisely 
what makes investigation so difficult. You may remember 
that Homer was born in seven cities. Zaharoff is more modest ; 
he is content with four. And with a bad memory as we shall 
see : 

1873. Giving evidence in a London court he said he was 
twenty-two. He was therefore born in 185 1 and in Tatavla, 
the quarter in Constantinople where the poor Greeks live. 

1892. He secures a birth certificate which tells a rather 
different story. Different and interesting. Here it is : 

certificate. The undersigned, members of the old estab- 
lished community of Mouchliou, bear witness on their 
oath as Christians that Zacharie Vasiliou Zacharoff 
or Zaharoff Basile was born in this town on October 6, 
1849, the legitimate son of Vassiliou and Helene 
Zacharoff, and was on the 8th of that month baptized 
according to the rites of the Greek Orthodox Church 
by the priest Daniel, then pastor of the community, 



14 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

and at the ceremony his paternal grandmother was 
godmother. 

In witness whereof we append our signatures to 
this certificate. 
mouchliou, Dec. 21, 1892. 

Signed: A B 

C D 

(a third signature is illegible) 

The Archimandrite bears witness that the above 
signatures are genuine. 

Signed: Makharios 

His Holiness, the (Ecumenical Patriarch Mgr. 
Neophytos bears witness to the genuineness of the 
signature of the Archimandrite Makharios. 

The Interpreter at the Appeal Court being sworn 
testifies that this copy is an exact copy of the original. 

Signed: Sumien 
paris, July 22, 1908. 

What does this document tell us ? Let us leave the signatures 
of the Church officials out of it. The Archimandrite testifies 
to the genuineness of the signatures of three private individuals, 
and the Patriarch testifies to the genuineness of the signature 
of the Archimandrite. But these three individuals — really two, 
for the signature of the third is illegible — what extraordinary 
memories they have I Without referring to the church registers 
— these were destroyed by fire — without any written docu- 
ments, or they would surely have referred to them, these 
worthy men remember in the year 1892 what happened in 
the year 1849, that is forty-three years before, and so well 
that they remember that there was a birth on October 6th 
and a baptism on October 8th. They even remember more 
intimate details. And they hand this certificate of identity to 
a man who, as we shall see later, left their community at the 



THE DIFFICULTIES OF A BIOGRAPHER I 5 

tender age of three and never saw them again until he came 
back as a man of forty-three, or rather in all probability did 
not come back in person but sent someone else to procure the 
certificate. That is indeed no valid reason for disbelief in the 
genuineness of the certificate, but it does afford ground for 
disbelief in its value as evidence. And this fact is not unim- 
portant, because a man whom we shall meet shortly has some- 
thing very different to say about Basil Zaharoff's birth and 
backs what he says with documents which are just as good 
or as Lad as that of our hero. 

How comes it that there are two contradictory accounts ? 
In 1873 a young man was before a court. It was in his interest 
to make himself out to be as young as he could, and to make 
greater appeal to the court's mercy and at the same time not 
to be too precise about his original home. We will hear all 
about that later. But in 1892 there was no such motive. At that 
time, as we shall see, ZaharofF was at the turning-point of his 
career. The romantic period in his life and his business was 
over. From that time on he had to regard all that he did from 
quite a different viewpoint ; he had to draw a line under the 
past ; he felt the need of bringing his life into order. That 
was the moment when he procured that birth certificate. 
With the thought, perhaps, that he would use it at a marriage 
ceremony that he was thinking of attending ? He carried 
it in his pocketbook for sixteen years before he produced it. 
Take another look at it. The French certificate of it as a 
genuine copy dates from 1908. Then it was not put to use at a 
marriage, but a few weeks later Basil Zaharoff received a 
decoration ; he became commander of the Legion of Honour. 
Here is an instance which reveals the principle, knowledge of 
which lets us understand the ways and doings of the man 
— the principle of accommodation. A thorough, absolute, and 
unscrupulous accommodation to the needs of the moment. 
We will meet him as a Greek patriot and as a Russian patriot. 



10 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

We will find him a Frenchman when it is necessary to be a 
Frenchman, and in England he is an Englishman. The same 
principle enables him to sell arms to friend or foe. It would 
be a fatal mistake to think this has anything to do with charac- 
ter, and that is why the angry attacks of the pacifists are all 
in the air. Men of his stamp are always terribly genuine. Not 
because they are simply amoral, but because the sphere of 
morality for them alters according to no known law. Only 
when we recognize the fact of this extreme "shrinking" of 
the sphere in which he is ready to be "moral" can we under- 
stand Zaharoff's methods of action. 

This perfectly genuine accommodatingness to the needs of 
the occasion is quite in keeping with the fact that thirteen years 
later, in 1921, we meet yet another Zaharoff who has quite 
forgotten all these details which he once so glibly furnished. 
In 1 92 1 Zaharoff was a great man. He was at the height of 
success, he was a British knight, he wore the Grand Cross of 
the Legion of Honour, he was reputed to be the richest man 
in the world, and the world knew well that the partner of his 
life was a duchess. At this very time the Sketch published a 
photograph of a young lady with this caption, " Miss Yvonne 
Zaharoff, the granddaughter of the famous philanthropist, 
Sir Basil Zaharoff." The famous philanthropist had reason to 
protest against this ascription of relationship. He did so in a 
letter which contains yet a third account of his birth. He 
was, he declares, born in the Phanar. Now, you must under- 
stand that the Phanar is the quarter of Constantinople where 
the rich and respectable Greeks live. And you must also 
remember that it is the great ambition of every Greek to be 
born in Constantinople, in Byzantium, in the centre of the later 
Greek civilization. Then you will realize that, according to 
the principle of accommodating things to the needs of the 
moment, there was only one possible and proper birthplace 
for a respectable Greek, the respectable quarter of Constanti- 
nople, the Phanar. 



THE DIFFICULTIES OF A BIOGRAPHER 1 7 

The fourth version does not come from Sir Basil Zaharoff 
himself, and obviously it is not produced according to the 
needs of the situation. At least, not according to the needs 
of his situation. It is the account given by a gentleman called 
Hyman Barnett Zaharoff, or rather Haim Manelewitsch Sahar, 
who was born on April 15, 1868, at Wilkomir in Lithuania, 
and who is ready to produce proof for you that Sir Basil 
Zaharoff is his father. 

We shall have to deal in more detail with Haim Manele- 
witsch Sahar when we come to the place where his extra- 
ordinary and at first sight quite incredible story comes properly 
and sensationally into the official version of Sir Basil's bio- 
graphy. For the moment, just a word about this official 
version — and so about what was known, up to the time of 
the publication of this book, about Sir Basil Zaharoff and from 
what sources his biography was written. 

I do not mention the stories which are told in Greek and 
also in Turkish circles throughout the world, nor do I waste 
time on the attacks in the newspapers which, when they do not 
reel into sheer incoherence, are based on these stories. But there 
remains a book which ranks as a source, as "a standard work." 
This is Richard Lewinsohn's Der Mann im Dunkel. This work, 
which has its merits, is not equipped with a note on sources. 
Part of the material in it is taken from another book, Sir Basil 
Zaharoff, 1'Homme mystirieux de /'Europe, by R. Menevde, 
the editor of the Documents politiques, which was published 
by the author himself in Paris in 1928. This little work, which 
has remained almost unnoticed, contains a large collection 
of documents and is the most important source of information 
for a very large part of Zaharoff 's life. It is trustworthy where 
it is content merely to reproduce documents. It begins to 
be less trustworthy when its conscientious and well-informed 
author yields to the Zaharoffphobia generally felt by the 
French, which dates from the days of the fall of Lloyd George 
in 1922, and is anxious to show up Zaharoff as a secret agent 



1 8 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

of the British Intelligence Service. In part, Menevee's work 
is derived from the revelations of a certain M. Bon2on — who 
was equally susceptible to panic — in the Activiti fratifaise et 
itrangere in 1922. 

But besides the material derived from Menevee's documents 
there can be seen in Lewinsohn's biography another element. 
Here Lewinsohn has obviously followed hard in Zaharoff's 
tracks, and he gleaned quite a lot of important information. 
The hotelkeeper Lampsas of Athens, who has since died, 
and the former Premier of Greece, Skuludis, are two good 
sources. The details supplied by the latter are especially im- 
portant ; for this reason, that in 1 874 Zaharoff made certain 
"confessions" to him on the credibility of which we shall 
hear something later. 

The information which I myself have obtained from 
documents and from eye-witnesses is for the most part quoted 
in the text. If I except the evidence of the beggar H, the 
ex-fireman, which in more than one instance is very dubious, 
the most important data on the origin and youth of Sir Basil 
Zaharoff are those supplied by the witness I have already men- 
tioned, the agent of a prince, Ro. This man is a passionate 
gambler ; he has lost vast sums at Monte Carlo — and his 
animus against Sir Basil, as is evidenced in the accounts given 
me of his miserliness, may have sprung up because of that. 
That apart, Ro. is a man of very great shrewdness, and for 
years he has made the search for facts of Sir Basil's past the 
object of a hunt which would almost be sporting if it were not 
so bitter. And what he found and placed in my hands in the 
shape of a memoir is particularly valuable because, as was 
obvious from paragraph after paragraph, he had read scarcely 
a line of the revelations hitherto published. 

From all these documents, sources, and testimonies we may 
construct the following. 



ZAHAROFF: THE ARMAMENTS KING 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM 
THE EAST 

We must first go back to certain events of the year 1821. 
In that year the Greeks, inspired by the ideas of the French 
Revolution, plan a rising against their Turkish oppressors. 
But at the last moment the plan is betrayed. 

The Greeks in Constantinople live strictly apart from the 
Turks, the rich in the Phanar, the poor in Tatavla ; it is not 
difficult to hold them down. On Easter Day 18 21 the Turkish 
population breaks into the Greek quarters, storms the 
cathedral, drags the Greek patriarch of Constantinople, 
Georgios, from the altar, and hangs him on the doorposts as 
he is, clad in his gold and purple. The body is then dragged 
through the streets and flung into the sea. It is a signal. A 
general massacre of the Greeks begins, and after the massacre 
a general exodus. Whither ? To go into the country districts, 
to remain on Turkish soil is simply suicide. So they go north. 
Over the Black Sea, to their co-religionists in Russia, to the 
protector, real or alleged, of the Greek struggle for inde- 
pendence, to Russia. 

Among the fugitives of 1821 there is a family whose name 
is given in the official version as Zacharios or Zacharias. 
Two other witnesses, including the trusty Ro. and especially 
the Frenchman Bonzon, declare that that form of the name 
is already an example of accommodation to the needs of the 
moment, that it is a Greek form of an original Sahar or Zohar. 
The latter are undeniably Hebraic. The name Sahar is a fairly 



20 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

common Jewish family name, and if, after its emigration to 
Russia, the family promptly called itself Zaharoff, that is 
only "Sahar" plus "off," the dropping of a Greek termina- 
tion in favour of a Russian one. In other words, a new 
accommodation to the needs of a new moment. 

That is very plausible. But there is one thing against it. 
Certainly M. Bonzon is not always absolutely trustworthy. 
He wrote in the year 1922, the year when the French "un- 
masked" Zaharoff. Unmasking Zaharoff was then a sort of 
journalistic sport. And when M. Bonzon demonstrates to Sir 
Basil, "the hireling of the British Intelligence Service," that 
his name is not Zaharoff but Zohar, he does not do so out 
of a zeal for etymological accuracy, but because Zohar is a 
Jewish name, and M. Bonzon is one of those people who 
believe that a man must needs be wounded to the heart if 
it is proved to him that he is a Jew. This incursion into 
etymology would be of no importance at all if it were not 
for the existence of Mr. Hyman Barnett Zaharoff who a few 
decades earlier was Haim Manelewitsch Sahar, and who claims 
to be Sir Basil's son. 

Whether it is called Zacharios or Zacharias or Zohar or 
Sahar, the fugitive family seeks refuge in Russia, and there 
at some date which cannot now be ascertained takes the 
name Zacharoff (Sir Basil, who has finally decided to be a 
Frenchman, writes it "Zaharoff"; we may as well adopt that 
form). Next we find traces of the family at Kischineff in 
Bessarabia. "The family" obviously means Sir Basil's grand- 
father and his wife Helena ; we have already met the latter 
in the lady who is mentioned in the birth certificate of 1892 
as having been godmother to the infant Sir Basil at his bap- 
tism. They seem to have had two sons, the elder of whom was 
Sir Basil's father. We are not quite sure whether or not there 
were daughters. The family goes into the tailoring business, 
sells cloth and clothes. 

From Kischineff the family goes to Otschakoff, a small 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 21 

port on the Black Sea, east of Odessa, and from Otschakoff 
to Odessa itself. There is some evidence that the family lived 
in Odessa until 1841 or 1843, and even attained a relative 
prosperity. Whether as a result of this prosperity or because 
political conditions have changed, the family holds that the 
time has come to return to Turkey. It goes first to Constanti- 
nople, to Tatavla, the quarter where the family used to live, and 
as it does not make any progress there, for reasons that are 
no longer discoverable, it goes yet farther afield and settles 
in the lictle town of Mughla (Moughliou) in the south-west 
coiner of Anatolia. The family, that is, Sir Basil's grand- 
mother Helena, Sir Basil's father who, if we may give credit 
to the birth certificate, was also called Basileos, and Basileos's 
wife, whom he had married during their passing stay in 
Constantinople. Her first name was also Helena. Her family 
name cannot be definitely ascertained, but it was probably 
Antoniades. That is the state of the family in 1849 anyway. 
We can only conjecture that Basil Zaharoff's grandfather, 
the exile of 1821, is already dead, and that the daughters of 
the family, if any, have married. And we are completely 
in the dark as to the fate of that second son whom we have 
seen was a member of the family when it was at Kischineff. Is 
he too dead ? Or has he remained behind in Russia when the 
family left ? We shall hear later what Haim Manelewitsch 
Sahar can say about this missing uncle of Sir Basil, or at least 
claims that he can say. 

Here we are, then, in Mughla in 1849. We cannot offer 
any proof that Sir Basil's document is a fraud, and we will 
say, therefore, that he was born in Mughla, on October 6, 
1 849, and that two days later, in the presence of the worthy 

Messrs. A B and C D and the 

third gentleman whose name, as a result of his indecipherable 
caligraphy, cannot be preserved to posterity, as they themselves 
testified on the birth certificate, was baptized according to the 
rites of the Greek Orthodox Church by a priest called Daniel. 



22 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

He was baptized Zacharias Basileos Zacharoff — the Christian 
name Zacharias he retained for quite a long time. On the further 
fortunes of Sir Basil's family there is very little information. 
It is known that Basil had three sisters younger than himself, 
Sebastia, Charikleia, and Zoe, and that two of them at least 
were living in Constantinople in 1875. There is no trace of 
any descendants of the sisters. They are said to have become 
teachers, to have emigrated to America, and finally to have 
returned to Europe and lived in Paris where they were main- 
tained by their prosperous brother. We know that Basil's 
father, keeping up the clothier tradition, made at least one 
trip to England and secured some business connections in 
Manchester. And, finally, we know that about 1852 the family 
left the little town of Mughla and once again went to Con- 
stantinople, or, to be more precise, to Tatavla, where for the 
next ten years or so they remained settled. 

A word as to the place where they lived. We have said that 
the respectable Greeks lived in the Phanar. The quarter of the 
Phanar was the pride of every Greek and was always, in spite 
of the claims of Athens and Smyrna, considered to be the centre 
of Hellenism. The Greeks of Constantinople spoke a dialect of 
their own. Their literature, especially about the middle of last 
century, was considered to be the finest, the most brilliant. 
And here the Greek "nobility" lived, those great families 
which, even under the Turk, had been able to preserve their 
power and their influence. These families claimed to be able 
to trace their ancestry back for centuries. There were no 
documents, and oral tradition is doubly unreliable when one 
remembers how lively the Greek imagination is. But it can 
easily be understood now why Sir Basil, having become 
respectable, attached a certain importance to being born in 
the Phanar. 

Tatavla presents a very different picture. Here lived the 
Greek proletariat, and the place, secluded as it was from 
contact with the Turkish world around it, had almost the 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 23 

character of a ghetto. A tangled mass of poor crooked houses. 
Narrow, unpaved, filthy alleys. It covers a hillside about a 
square mile in extent. In the night-time there is nothing to 
be heard there but an occasional low call, a prostitute's scream, 
a signal whistle, or the tap-tap of a lone walker, while in the 
bright streets that surround it the touts for the public-houses 
cry up and down and water-sellers, nut-sellers, bakers, beggars, 
loafers, strident-voiced women, children with children in 
their arms push and jostle through the crowd of sailors 
who block the street and are smiled at, called to, spoken to 
in Turkish, Greek, Spanish, every language under the sun. 
Hookah-smokers crouch beside the house-fronts. In tiny 
rooms, open cellars, and dens half-underground, cobblers 
cobble, joiners hammer at their tasks. Money-changers invite 
to their tables, shoe-cleaners cajole, fruit-sellers haggle, and 
swear on their lives and the lives of their wives and children 
that their green melons are fine, and behind it, cut into 
fantastic shapes by gables, walls, flagpoles, and minarets 
flares and flickers the starry wilderness of the southern sky. 

That is the environment in which Basil Zaharoff spent his 
youth. 

If we are to get some light on these early years of his we 
shall have to adopt the method which has been proved effec- 
tive, the method of confrontation. Confrontation here means 
the comparison of what I have called the official version of 
Zaharoff's life with actual data which I have obtained. Here, 
too, we may take Lewinsohn's biography as the official 
version, and it is derived, if not actually directly, at least in 
the last resort, from Zaharoff himself. Let me quote from it : 

Such was the environment in which the young Zaharoff 
grew up. His father was altruistic enough to take pains to 
give his son a decent education so as to make life a little easier 
for him than it had been for himself. But it did not amount 
to very much. His relatives gave what help they could. A 



24 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

brother of Madame Zaharoff, a wealthy gentleman called Anto- 
niades, gave Zaharoff a post in his business. The young 
employee, Zacharias Basileos, had been found to be an earnest, 
bright pupil, but his father was not able to keep his son at 
school longer than was enough for him to learn the first two 
"R's" and something of the third. Then a rich fellow-country- 
man, Iphestidi by name, who lived in the famous quarter of 
the Phanar, took on himself the burden of paying the fees of 
the clever youngster from Tatavla at the English school. 
Until Zaharoff was eighteen this man paid for his upkeep 
and let him get the best education that could be got in 
Constantinople. 

I have made this extract textually from Lewinsohn's book 
to show the copybook morality character of the reminiscences 
of Zaharoff — whether they derive from himself or from his 
friends. A man who is so well acquainted with conditions 
in Turkey in the middle of last century as our trusty Ro., the 
agent of princes, declares that at that time the foreign schools 
in Turkey were practically all mission schools, and that to 
obtain entry into any of them did not necessitate the inter- 
mediary of "a rich denizen of the Phanar." The mission 
schools did not ask fees, and indeed found it so difficult to 
get pupils that they literally searched the alleys for them. 
Besides, the story that he stayed at school until he was eighteen 
does not fit in with other information, as we shall see later. 
The most important thing in the story of this period is the 
name of the patron who paid for Zaharoff's education, Iphes- 
tidi. We shall encounter this name again in London in 1873 — 
in baffling circumstances. 

Let us carry confrontation a step further. The official 
version states that the youthful Zaharoff had put the alleged 
subsidy grant by the alleged Iphestidi to excellent use. But 
at that time his father lost his trading capital, never very 
considerable, in a couple of unfortunate ventures, and the son 
had to help to get the family out of the resultant difficulties. 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 25 

He started out as a moneychanger but he did not disdain 
to take on any other work that would bring in a piastre or 
two. He tried, for instance, to crash into the fire brigade. 
He soon realized that he could make much more out of the 
foreigners who visited Constantinople than he could out of 
his own countrymen. He haunted the hotels in hope of being 
taken on as a guide or of getting some commission or other 
to do. 

The matter contained in that short paragraph deserves a 
somewhat closer analysis. What do we see ? A guide for the 
foreigner, a fireman, a moneychanger. Moneychanger — there 
is nothing inconceivable here. Anyone who has visited the 
East can call up those tables of the moneychangers, and the 
wide-eyed, quick-fingered men who sit behind them, always 
ready to produce in conjurer fashion a handful of copper 
coins for the banknote offered them, and whose complicated 
system of exchange, as the victim realizes later, lets them give 
10 per cent, short, while 20 per cent, of the coins given will be 
out of circulation. One can well imagine Sir Basil Zaharoff in 
that milieu, a milieu of conjurer's tricks, of steady nerves, and 
unwavering eyes, in which there is only one morality — apart, 
indeed, from the morality of the restricted radius to which 
allusion has already been made — the morality of the sharp. 
That is the chief characteristic of Tatavla. 

Now for the foreigner's guide and the fireman. Ro. also 
is aware that Sir Basil claims to have followed these honourable 
occupations. To my inquiry about what he had to tell on this 
point he proceeded to give me a description of Greek business 
life in Constantinople, and went on : 

But when night comes, Tatavla becomes the sink of all the 
iniquities and indecencies of the East, a dangerous competitor 
to Galata, where the entire female scum of the East is con- 
centrated in the triangle Jenischerschi-Jurik Kalderin-Rue 
de Galata, and sailors of every country enjoy every liberty. 
Tatavla is a pleasure resort of a rather different type. It is the 



26 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

headquarters of the local prostitution and of the chief Oriental 
filthinesses. 

When Basil Zaharoff, now become "Kt.," tells about his 
youth, he likes to represent it as the conventional career 
of the conventional citizen. According to his story he left the 
English school at the age of sixteen and then became a fireman 
and later a guide in Constantinople. That seems all right, 
and quite usual ; there is nothing dishonourable about it. 
A fireman is a very useful member of society : a guide needs 
certain special intellectual qualifications ; he should know 
languages and some history. But we must not forget that we 
aren't in Western Europe, but in Constantinople in the 
'sixties. And we are not just in Constantinople, but in Tatavla, 
in the underworld of the Turkish capital. 

In Constantinople the firemen had a guild of their own. 
They were organized in sections corresponding to the various 
quarters of the city, and they played very much the same part 
as did the gangs in America under prohibition. Whenever 
the alarm was raised, the firemen of the quarter rushed to it 
with their perfectly hopeless hoses, but these were used much 
less in any case than the burglar's tools that they also brought 
with them. When there were no fires, the tulumbadschi indulged 
in burglary, housebreaking, murder on commission, and kin- 
dred pursuits. The tulumbadschi belonged to the lowest rabble 
of old Constantinople, and membership of this honourable 
guild certainly is not a part of the experience of a young 
man which should be related by him. At least he should relate 
it only in places where no one knows what a Constantinople 
tulumbadschi was. 

In his youth Sir Basil Zaharoff had all the qualities necessary 
for membership. He was very poor, he was very strong, he 
possessed unusual vitality and unusual ambition. As his people 
could not keep him he had to keep himself. Considering the 
excessive competition, that was not easy for a Greek. 

His other occupation, the guide's, was also an occupation 
which at that time was very different in Constantinople to 
what it is in Paris or London. A guide in Constantinople was 
pretty much the same thing as a brothel tout. The travellers 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 27 

who came to Constantinople in the 'sixties were always looking 
for adventure, the sort of adventure which gets you a term 
of imprisonment in Europe. There was no risk of that in 
Constantinople ; all that the seeker needed was a well-filled 
purse. 

Basil Zaharoff, with his keen eye to the main chance, soon 
discovered that this profession was much easier and much less 
dangerous than that of the tulumbadschi, who had a good many 
risks to run. Accordingly he devoted himself to this sort of 
guiding, and it was a type of activity that exactly suited him. 
He was engaged in it for three years of the time that he spent 
in Constantinople. 

I quote this from the statements of Ro. after some necessary 
sub-editing, including the excision, which I thought desirable, 
of a couple of details, and the reader can judge for himself 
not only of Ro., as witness whose gambler's hate of the casino 
proprietor of Monte Carlo is almost always visible in his 
reports, which otherwise are always worthy of close attention, 
but also of the fact that when we come to documents Zaharoff's 
enemies must be treated as carefully as his friends. In this 
form Ro.'s account is undoubtedly inaccurate, but it shows 
clearly that Sir Basil could tell of his early experiences as 
fireman and guide only to a public which was completely 
ignorant of the conditions obtaining in old Constantinople. 
But Ro. does not indicate how far, if at all, Basil Zaharoff 
conducted himself as did the usual types in the callings he 
adopted. 

Here we are faced with circumstances which need to be very 
circumspectly treated. This period of "youthful occupations" 
in Zaharoff's life extends up to the year 1865 — and for the 
years between 1865 and 1870 I was not able to secure a single 
scrap of documentary evidence throwing light on what he did 
or how he lived in Constantinople. There is a yawning gap 
here, an empty space of five years. 

The absence of documents is only negative proof. How far 



28 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

it will be granted that the positive evidence which I shall now 
quote can be regarded as such — that, too, is left to the reader's 
judgment. Here we come to the "Document H.," to the infor- 
mation which the beggar and ex-fireman H. gave me, and to 
his reminiscences of Sir Basil Zaharoff. I lived for a time in 
the poor quarter of Constantinople — which is another story. 
I knew of a Sir Basil Zaharoff — this was before the books of 
Menevee and Lewinsohn were published — but only what was 
common knowledge, and no more than other readers of the 
newspapers. One night I heard his name mentioned in a low 
public-house in Great Galata Street. A clever Greek girl, 
who was pursuing her trade there, told me what I had never 
known before, that the "richest man in the world" — she was 
proud of him as all Greeks are — had come out of this alley. 
I used even then to write odd articles for the papers. In what 
the little Greek girl told me I scented "copy," and so I went 
into the whole thing a little. But what I heard afterwards seemed 
to me so incoherent and so incredible that I never wrote the 
article. I remember it only by an entry in my diary. It was only 
later when stone by stone I was building up the life of this 
modern adventurer that the entry began to have meaning and 
content. 

The girl directed me to the proprietress of a brothel who 
was reputed to be a near relative of Zaharoff. I found the 
brothel, but I soon realized that I was on a false trail. I was 
introduced to a lady, very correctly dressed and very precise 
in her speech, who simply denied any relationship with Zaharoff. 
"Nor have I ever even had business relations with him," 
she added, and we may believe her. Whether she did know 
more than she would say ; whether she had on occasion bragged 
of that relationship and now was more reticent and careful 
to deny it, I cannot tell. But the trail was not altogether a 
false one. When I was leaving the house she said to me : 
"I'm so sorry that I know nothing. But I think you ought to 
speak to H. outside." That was the beginning of my acquain- 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 29 

tance with H. In the forenoons he preferred to sleep ; in the 
afternoon he was a beggar, but in the evenings and at night 
he was barman and odd man in the brothel — a small allowance 
which the proprietress gracefully made him. 

Unfortunately, for the reasons stated I did not take down 
verbatim my conversation with H. At this late date I can only 
affirm that it began almost in the same way as did the con- 
versation with the former Premier of Greece, who is called 
"Witness D." in this book. H. asked me not to mention his 
name, and I gave my word not to do so. Whether he had any 
particular reason for the request, or whether it was made 
because he had just a general dislike of a publicity that might 
call the attention of the police to himself, I did not inquire 
too deeply. Yes, he had known Zaharoff, he said. It was a 
good long time ago, and in those days he was just a youth. 
He could not give me dates ; he did not even know the date 
of his own birth. His trade ? He had gone about with strangers. 
Had he been a guide ? Was that how he had got to know 
Basil Zaharoff ? No, a little later they had been on jobs together. 
Jobs ? What jobs and where ? I can still remember how at 
this question H. suddenly became discreet. With a vague 
gesture he said : "We were in the Fire Brigade." 

1. (I did not know then the significance that might be attached 
to "Fire Brigade" and "guide") And then ? 
he. There was a big fire and he cleared out. He had to. 
1. Had to clear out ? What had the fire got to do with it ? 

By now H. was reducing himself to monosyllables. How I 
got him to talk properly again I don't remember. But he told 
me the tale of Zaharoff's effort at robbery and murder. I 
remember that it was this yarn that made me give up running 
the story down and drop the article I was going to write. 
The thing hadn't verisimilitude, and what H. told me I merely 
noted down as an Arabian Nights' tale. As to the date of 
this exploit, either he could not put a date to it or here I did 



30 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

not follow him properly. First of all, H. seemed to me to be 
asserting that at that time Zaharoff had used the chance given 
by a big fire to commit robbery and murder, and that was 
why he had cleared out. When I tried to get him to give me 
some more details he corrected himself, and said — I give 
the sense of what he said, not a textual quotation — that 
Zaharoff hadn't committed his crime at' the time of the fire, 
but later, after he had got back, some years after. 

h. I can't tell how many years, but he had to go to quod 
for it. He escaped and did in a policeman who tried 
to stop him. 
I. That wasn't robbery and murder. And how on earth could 
he be put in prison for a murder which he only com- 
mitted when he was trying to escape from it ? 

H. was now completely confused, and it can be understood, 
I think, why the information that he supplied could not be 
used as the groundwork for an article on Sir Basil. If we leave 
the "robbery and murder" out of it, this is all that there is in 
H.'s evidence : Zaharoff was a "guide" and then a "fireman" 
— in that sequence, not in that given by Ro. and Lewinsohn — 
until some big fire ; then he disappeared ; but came back some 
years later, and got into some trouble with the law. 

Here I was brought up once again against the "gap" of some 
years in the life of the young Zaharoff, brought up against it 
while pursuing a path quite different to the former one. It 
remains only to try to define its time-limits. It comes after 
"a great fire." I went through the history of Constantinople 
and I found that the last great fire in the city was in the year 
1865. The chain of probabilities was therefore completed. 
Probability, be it understood, not proved fact. This really 
is all we can say : there is a considerable body of evidence to 
show that the fireman, Basil Zaharoff, left Constantinople 
after the great fire of 1865 for no special reason, or because he 
had to fly from it, and that he reappeared in the city a few years 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 3 I 

later — apparently in 1870. Where was Zacharias Basileos 
Zacharoff during these years ? 

It is to this period that the tale of Haim Manelewitsch 
Sahar belongs. 

On April 11, 191 1, a gentleman in Birmingham, a certain 
Haim Manelewitsch Sahar — it is not certain whether at that 
date he was calling himself Hyman Barnett Zaharoff — read 
in the Birmingham Daily Mail an item from St. Petersburg, 
which said that a "M. Zaharoff" had given a sum of twenty 
thousand pounds sterling for the development of Russian 
aviation. This piece of news made an idea flash into the mind 
of Haim Sahar, an idea that rapidly hardened into certainty, 
to a certainty indeed which from that hour was part of his 
life and became his destiny. 

That the name Zaharoff was identical with the name Sahar 
he realized at once, without any knowledge of etymology, 
without any knowledge of the onslaught of M. Bonzon — in 
any case this appeared in the Press only eleven years later 
— and without any knowledge of the investigations of our 
friend Ro., who at that time had no thought at all of con- 
cerning himself with Sir Basil. Mr. Haim Sahar, you see, 
comes himself from Russia, and he knows how many people 
there are fond of giving their names a national Russian colour 
by the very convenient method of adding "off" to the original 
names ; indeed, it is not impossible to believe that Mr. Haim 
Sahar himself at that very time, and quite independent of 
his perusal of the Birmingham Daily Mail, was already in 
possession of the name Hyman Barnett Zaharoff. The "M. 
Zaharoff," of whom the St. Petersburg message spoke as 
cheerfully giving away twenty thousand pounds, was actually 
a M. Sahar, more fully Manel Sahar — and Manel Sahar was 
the name of his father, a father who disappeared, and for 
whom Haim Manelewitsch had been searching since he was 
seventeen. 



32 2AHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

What can he tell of him ? In the little town of Wilkomir, 
then in the Russian government of Kovno, and now in the 
independent state of Lithuania, there lived in the 'sixties 
of last century a man of the name of Sahar, a military tailor 
by trade. It is alleged that he came from the south when he 
was young, from the town of Kischineff in Bessarabia. In the 
house of this tailor there lived a very young man of whom two 
stories are told, one that he was the son and the only son of 
the tailor, and the other that he was possibly not the son of 
the tailor but a very near kinsman who had emigrated to 
Wilkomir. But it is certain that he called himself Sahar, 
Manel Sahar. Despite his extreme youth, this Manel Sahar 
was a drinker, a gambler, a womanizer, and a brawler, and was 
such a trouble to the decent peaceful Jewish community that 
it was resolved to fit him out at its expense and hand him over 
to the recruiting sergeant, although as an only son he was, by 
the law then ruling, exempt from military service. But they 
would get rid of him and at the same time preserve from 
military service another young man who was a more useful 
— and no doubt a more prosperous — member of the com- 
munity. So far the story has nothing incredible about it ; 
such transactions were very common in Russia at that time. 
The substitution of nephews for sons and sons for nephews, 
the deliberate confusion of relationships, the coming and going 
of young men with the purpose of dumping the surplus of 
the big family on the childless and so creating "only sons" 
who were exempt from military service, was a common 
practice, and was almost a legitimate way of defence against 
the brutal recruiting methods of that army of the Czar which 
was cannibal in its consumption of men, an army which on 
the one hand summoned the Jews to defend the fatherland, and 
on the other planned pogrom after pogrom. Be it noted that 
one of the chief centres of pogroms was Bessarabia in general, 
and Kischineff in particular, and the possibility cannot be 
rejected that it was the existence of pogroms that caused 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 33 

the Sahar family to leave that town. The other means of defence 
against the Moloch of compulsory service will come up 
again — the systematic falsification of particulars of birth. 

Let us get back to this bad lad, Manel Sahar. He agreed to 
the bargain, and willingly or the reverse became a Russian 
soldier. But before he left the little community he committed 
another serious offence against its moral code. In the course 
of the year 1867 he got in tow with a girl called Haje Elka 
Karolinski, and married her without troubling about the usual 
period of formal betrothal, a circumstance that later gave the 
lady the chance to contest the validity of the marriage. At any 
rate, in 1867 there was a marriage, and on April ij, 1868, 
the birth of a child, no other than our friend Haim Manele- 
witsch Sahar. The certificate of birth is in existence. 

Of his childish recollections, Haim Sahar, or, as we may 
now just as well call him, Mr. Hyman Barnett Zaharoff, 
speaks with a certain reticence which is rather human in its 
way and rouses one's sympathy, especially when one remembers 
that evidently he has to tell of rather cavalier treatment on 
the part of his father. Only once did he make a slip, I remarked 
that this Manel Sahar must have been a Jew, while Sir Basil 
is a Greek Catholic. 

he. He got baptized later, after they took him to Siberia. 

1. They took him to Siberia ? As a convict ? 
he (taken aback). I shall have to ask my lawyer whether I 
should talk about that. 

I pressed him, but it was no use. None the less he gave me these 
two anecdotes of his childhood. First : 

I was about two years old and could stand. I was holding 
on to the corner of the table. My father came in. He was a 
soldier. He took off his clothes. I noticed that both his middle 
toes were bent and shorter than the others. Also I noticed 
that he had two scars of burns. On his back, between the 
shoulder blades. They were shaped like bean pods. 



34 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

And second : 

It was rather a miserable life. My father was seldom at home. 
He came back again when I was about six or seven. My mother 
chased him out and got a divorce (i.e. got the marriage declared 
invalid because the regulation betrothal period had not been 
observed). The marriage was dissolved in Bielsk in the Grodno 
government. My mother then married again. 

Thereafter Hyman Barnett Zaharoff had nothing more to 
tell of his boyhood except that he was still a small boy when he 
was taken to Kovno, that he left that town when he was seven- 
teen, and went out into the world — and to search for his father. 
He had got hold of a story that his father had some connection 
or other with England. Therefore the youth went off to Eng- 
land, though he did not know a word of the language, lived 
in the slums, was tossed hither and thither and finally landed 
in Birmingham. There he lived the hard life of the lower 
middle-class and had long forgotten that romantic search for 
a lost father when he happened to read the message from 
St. Petersburg in the Birmingham Daily Mail about this "M. 
Zaharoff" and his twenty thousand pounds. He did what anyone 
else in his place would have done. He wrote to the society 
for the development of aviation mentioned in the message, 
and asked for the address of the donor. And he received 
almost by return a letter in French which is among his docu- 
ments to say that "M. Zaharoff" lived in Paris at 53, Avenue 
Hoche. 

Let us pause here a moment and try to realize what really 
happened. What we have witnessed is the arrival of adventure 
in the average existence of an average character. This small 
man from a small street did not for a moment stop to consider 
that the similarity of Zaharoff and Sahar was hardly a sufficient 
basis on which to found a claim at law. It did not give him any 
food for thought, once he had identified Sahar with Zaharoff, 
that in the item in the paper there was no mention of a " Manel " 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 35 

but only of an "M." And suppose this were only the usual 
French abbreviation for "Monsieur" ? M. Hyman Barnett 
Zaharoff had no knowledge of French and he did not concern 
himself overmuch with the printed page. He was proof against 
that objection. He remained simple in his faith. For — and this 
is important — simple faith, the firm conviction in the justice 
of his cause, did not falter even for a second, even although 
he did not know what we know. For him this "M. Zaharoff" 
was a blank sheet. He knew nothing at all of the curious 
correspondence in character between the young Basil of the 
Fire Brigade days and the young Manel Sahar at the time 
when they had to put him in a uniform. He knew nothing at 
all of the "gap" in Basil ZaharofFs Constantinople period 
with which we have been so concerned, a gap into which the 
"Wilkomir complex" so admirably fits. At that time Mr. 
Hyman Barnett Zaharoff did not even know of his extra- 
ordinary resemblance to the gentleman of the Avenue Hoche. 
Adventure, destiny, had broken into the even tenor of his 
life ; from now on he is no longer driven on by his own will 
but by some higher power. And the curious, the mysterious 
thing is that the circumstances of his bowshot at a venture 
come to his aid and give it support. 

Here begins the battle of the man in Birmingham with the 
man in the Avenue Hoche for the admission of paternity. He 
claimed recognition, so he wrote in his first letter, not from 
merely selfish motives ; rather he wanted to have a father. 
But across the channel there was clearly no very solid belief 
in his disinterestedness ; the letters of Mr. Hyman Barnett 
Zaharoff were not answered. Nor were the letters of his lawyer. 
Then he decided — two years have passed and we are now in 
19 1 3 — on a general attack. He got together what money he 
could and went off himself to Paris. He went to that imposing 
house in the imposing Avenue Hoche ; he went once, he went 
twice, he went a dozen times ; Monsieur Zaharoff was either 
"out" or "at an important conference." But it was not so 



$6 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

easy to get rid of the little man from Birmingham ; he had still 
some money left. He bribed a servant and got hold of the 
private telephone number of the inaccessible gentleman and 
the fact that about three o'clock he answered the telephone 
himself, because it was then that his intimates usually tele- 
phoned him. As Hyman did not speak French he took a 
lawyer with him. He got through. The lawyer said what he 
had to say to Monsieur Zaharoff and the miracle happened. 
The great man was not unapproachable ; he wanted to speak 
to his son himself. Face to face ? Later, perhaps, but at the 
moment let him come to the 'phone. But he can only speak 
English. Then let him speak English. 

That was the moment which was decisive of the destiny 
of Mr. Hyman Barnett Zaharoff. He took up the 'phone and 
spoke as if his life was at stake. The great personage at the 
other end of the line was an old and rather lonely man. It is 
quite possible that for an instant he toyed with the thought 
to summon to him this son whom some time somewhere 
in that long, full life of his he may have begotten, to fill the 
place that was still empty, the place of the heir. That nothing 
of the sort happened, that this pregnant moment had no results 
can be understood by anyone who had met the worthy Hyman 
Barnett Zaharoff. There is nothing big about him ; he is not 
accustomed to put thought into words. Sir Basil had had a 
hard fight to become by 19 13 an important person, a director 
of Vickers, allied to a duchess. After half a minute on the 
telephone he must have seen that, apart altogether from the 
rights or wrongs of the case, this man from Birmingham 
and Wilkomir could not be welcome to him as a son. 
So he listened composedly to what the other had to relate, 
and said neither yes nor no. He asked him to send a 
written account of his claim to relationship. A meeting ? 
He said he would be willing to go to any cafe which the 
young man selected. He did not keep the appointment, and 
the man who was battling to obtain a father had to go back 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 37 

home after waiting in vain for three hours. The general 
attack has failed ; the money is spent. Once again he goes up 
to the door of the house in the Avenue Hoche and stays there 
until he sees the inaccessible ZaharofF face to face, perhaps 
for the first time, and perhaps not for the first time in his life ; 
sees him just for a moment. Then he is in his car and is 
round the corner. And Hyman Barnett Zaharoff goes back 
to England. 

Did that mean the end for this little man of the dream 
of wealth ? It seemed so. Life had to be lived ; the daily bread 
had to be won, and war was looming in the distance. While 
Basil Zaharoff's star rose ever more steadily, while he was 
becoming one of the richest men in the world and moving 
nations about like pieces on the board, the man who was 
perhaps his son went on with his humble life in Birmingham, 
and then in London where he lived the dull life of a small 
shopkeeper. He had a wife who preferred an actual humble 
breadwinner to the potential heir to a mighty fortune. 
He had nine children. He keeps their photographs in his 
pocket-book — a somewhat plump though charming eldest 
daughter, a young man who became a British sailor, a 
thin little girl in a spangled dress, standing stiff and strained. 
"She is a dancer," he says gently. And among them is the 
photograph of Yvonne. Miss Yvonne Zaharoff, a pretty girl 
with extraordinarily expressive eyes with a hint of mystery in 
them, her features betraying nothing in common with those 
of the family which have become sharpened and coarsened 
in the battle for humble existence. Perhaps it was because 
of this daughter that the father with half his life behind him 
took up the cause of his sonship once again. Or did the lady 
act on her own accord ? The way things went makes the latter 
supposition the more probable. In 1921 the Sketch published 
a portrait. Below was the caption "Miss Yvonne Zaharoff, 
the granddaughter of a well-known philanthropist, Sir Basil 
Zaharoff." We have already seen how the well-known philan- 



3 8 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

thropist reacted to that. His lawyers demanded the proof 
of relationship possessed by this granddaughter out of the 
blue. The lawyers of Mr. Hyman Barnett Zaharoff gave 
evidence. And they received the declaration which is among 
the documents, the declaration written in French by Sir Basil 
himself. It is dated from the Chateau de l'Echelle, and states 
that Sir Basil had no connection at all with the town of Wilko- 
mir, and that he was born in "the Phanar, Constantinople." 
Whereupon Mr. Hyman Barnett's lawyers produced documents 
on their side which purported to show . . . There is no need 
to go on ; we know how these things are. But there are two 
minor incidents of interest to record which are connected 
with the portrait published in the Sketch. 

First, in the shoe-shop kept at that time in London by Mr. 
Hyman Barnett Zaharoff there appeared twice running the 
two daughters of the Duchess of Villafranca, intent on buying 
shoes, a piece of business which they were accustomed to 
do in very different shops in very different parts of the city. 
It is no secret that these two ladies some years later were 
made his heirs by Sir Basil. While they were buying shoes 
they were obviously interested to learn something of the 
life of the proprietor. And it was evident, that is, if you 
believe Mr. Hyman Barnett Zaharoff and the witnesses he 
can bring, that the younger daughter of the proprietor and the 
elder daughter of the Duchess of Villafranca were as like as 
two peas. 

And second, while the lawyers were sending letters to and 
fro, there was a slight rearrangement in Mr. Hyman Barnett 
Zaharoff's household. One day Yvonne, the lady of the photo- 
graph, packed her small suitcase and went off to France. 
If one can believe Mr. Hyman Barnett and the assurances of 
his able and precise lawyer she was sailing in the Mediterranean 
on her own yacht, that is, when she was not living in her own 
castle near Paris. What did it mean ? 

For twelve years there were no developments in the case of 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 39 

Hyman Barnett Zaharoff. We meet him again in 1933. He has 
separated from his wife and is living — in the same street as 
she but without having anything to do with her — the life of 
a lone eccentric. The children have left him or gone out into 
the world. He is now sixty-five and has once again leisure 
to search for his father. There is something extraordinary here 
in this contest of two greybeards, trembling on the edge 
of the great abyss, and the reward to the victor is no longer a 
matter of sonship and fatherhood, but a lump sum in cold 
gold coin. 

The news from the front in that year 1933 ran thus : The 
lawyer of the aged son issues a short report on the circumstances 
of his client in the Daily Herald. Thereupon there is a new 
witness, a female one. She comes from Wilkomir and she relates 
that in Wilkomir they still remember very well the case of 
Manel Sahar, who came and went like a swift meteor. There 
still live there several witnesses who are ready to testify how 
much he resembles the pictures of Sir Basil Zaharoff which are 
now appearing in the illustrated papers of every land. 

At the same time another witness — also female — appears. 
She is an Englishwoman who lives in London. She is now sixty, 
and it is more than thirty years since she was an actress and 
found in Sir Basil a patron of her artistic ambitions. She puts 
a packet of yellowed letters on the table. The last dates from 
December 1927, and this time it is not from Sir Basil himself 
but from his secretary. The old gentleman remembers the days 
of yore, and he sends to his former friend now in poverty 
a present of money. And this friend is ready to testify that Sir 
Basil at that time, that is thirty odd years ago, had not quite 
forgotten his past in the North-East of Europe. He used to 
tell her about it. And he also told her that he was well aware 
that somewhere in Russia he had a son. 

That is how the matter stood up to Basil Zaharoff's death, 
and in many respects still stands, as far as Mr. Hyman Barnett 
Zaharoff, or more correctly Haim Manelewitsch Sahar, is 



40 ZAHAROFF ! THE ARMAMENTS KING 

concerned. There can be no doubt ; we have a whole series of 
threads in hand. But when we examine them and seek to unravel 
the story we have to go carefully, for here it is not only a 
question of documenting a section of a biography but to some 
extent of the destiny of a humble man and his family, who 
dreams of one day bringing against the heirs of the old man of 
Monte Carlo the law suit which he failed to bring against the 
old man himself while he was alive. What proofs are there, 
and of what value are they ? Once again let us go through 
what we have obtained and analyse the evidence point by 
point. 

We have knowledge now that in the 'sixties there was 
living in Wilkomir a military tailor who in his youth had emi- 
grated from Kischineff. The name Sahar is not an uncommon 
one. Besides, we remember that in the year 1921 the Sahar- 
Zaharoff family had fled from Constantinople, and had drifted 
to the Bessarabian town of Kischineff ; that there in all prob- 
ability they had two sons and that one of these sons, between 
the year of the flight 1821 and the year of the return to Turkey 
1843, had disappeared from our ken. It cannot be regarded as 
impossible that he had gone north and that he was the Sahar of 
Wilkomir. This possibility can no more be denied than can the 
possibility that Haim Manelewitsch Sahar — without any know- 
ledge of this investigation — knew at least that the Sahar of 
Wilkomir had a brother somewhere, while the trade of military 
tailor may be a natural consequence of the hereditary connec- 
tion of the Sahar-Zaharoffs with the clothing trade. On the 
other hand, it must be admitted that this is a very favourite 
trade with Russian Jews, and also that another family called 
Zacharopoulos, living in Constantinople, claims the fame of 
being descended from this lost uncle of Basil Zaharoff. 

We come now to the question which is completely open, 
whether this notorious evil-liver, Manel Sahar, is the son of 
the military tailor, or an emigri nephew, or a relation of some 
sort. It is a question which cannot be answered definitely, 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 41 

and here we have to go simply on circumstantial evidence. 
That there is a distinct psychological resemblance between 
the fireman who fled from Constantinople and the bad lad of 
Wilkomir is undoubted, and we have already noticed it. 
Equally, we have explained why there should be a certain lack 
of clarity in the relationship between Manel Sahar and the 
tailor. That the Jewish community of Wilkomir should have 
succeeded in getting rid of an undesirable young man, "although 
as an only son he was not liable to military service," is rather 
in favour of the view that the community knew, and could 
use its knowledge to bring pressure to bear on the youth, 
that he was not an only son and was not even the son of the 
military tailor. (If he was, then Hyman Barnett Zaharoff 
is not Sir Basil's son, but the grandson of his uncle.) 

But there is still a problem, the problem of the birth dates. 
If we compare the birth certificate produced by Sir Basil 
from Mughla, and Haim Manelewitsch Sahar's document 
from Wilkomir, we reach this conclusion, that Basil-Manel 
can have been only eighteen and a half years old when his son 
was born. He was then married before he was eighteen. 
And yet before that he had been a guide in Constantinople, 
a fireman, an emigri to his kin in the North, and a notorious 
rascal in Wilkomir 1 Even if we take into consideration the 
fact that in the East people come quickly to maturity, that is 
quite incredible. It becomes credible only if we accept some- 
thing that we have already discussed, the fact that minorities 
who suffered persecution in militarist countries systematically 
falsified their birth certificates. A man became liable to military 
service when he was about eighteen. He could gain two years 
if, at the right moment, he could produce a document which 
showed that actually he was only sixteen. As a matter of 
principle, sons either were not reported to the authorities or 
with the longest delay possible. Here is just another instance 
of "accommodation to the necessities of the moment." We 
should not attach to the birth certificate of Mughla any more 



42 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

worth than it merits. Witnesses are as a rule rather complaisant 
persons who are always ready to give their memories a prod, 
and they are not necessarily to be considered mala fide because 
of that. If Mr. Hyman Barnett Zaharoff, for instance, wanted 
to appeal to those witnesses from Wilkomir convinced of the 
identity of their Manel Sahar with our Sir Basil, he would 
without any difficulty get a document signed by three worthy 
gentlemen ; the Rabbi would witness to the genuineness of three 
signatures, and the Chief Rabbi would witness to the genuine- 
ness to the signature of the Rabbi, and so we should also have a 
birth certificate of Sir Basil Zaharoff, a document so legal — and 
yet so little evidence — as the document from that little town 
in Asia Minor — which says precisely the opposite. Add to it 
that the statements of Sir Basil himself are conflicting. We 
have already mentioned the remarkable variations of birth- 
place. Add to that, that by the Mughla certificate Sir Basil 
was not a year old in 1 849, while on the contrary when he was 
in court in 1873 he was twenty-two — that is, he was born in 
185 1. And again that in the year 1921 he confessed to the 
Daily Mail that he was sixty-six, which makes the year of his 
birth 1855, an d that, according to the information supplied by 
our witness, Baroness P., he said that in 1933 he was seventy- 
five, which makes his birth year 1858, and it can be seen 
that the information he himself gives as to the date of his 
birth need not be taken too seriously. He becomes steadily 
younger, and we heartily envy him. But again we cannot 
simply dismiss without more ado the assertion of Haim 
Manelewitsch Sahar to the effect that his father, whether he 
was called Manel or Basil, was not born in 1849, but waited 
for a year or two. Besides, in 1933 Mr. Hyman Barnett Zahar- 
off told me that he was sixty-two — and was rather painfully 
surprised when I rather tactlessly proved to him from his 
own documents that actually he was sixty-five. Whether this 
lowering of one's age is hereditary and so affords a new proof 
of kinship, I leave to the reader to decide. 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 43 

The rest of the material supplied by Hyman Barnett Zaharoff 
may be dealt with quite shortly. When Miss Yvonne Zaharoff 
goes to France, and is said to come into the possession of 
wealth — what does that prove ? Does it prove that Sir 
Basil recognized her as his granddaughter? We must 
treat this, too, as we must all the information collected, 
and look solely to the cumulative effect of it all. That is 
particularly true of the resemblances which we have found 
in the course of this investigation. There is the resemblance 
stated by the Wilkomir witnesses between the Manel Sahar 
who disappeared from their town and the pictures of Sir 
Basil. There is the resemblance between the daughter in 
the shoe shop and the daughter of the duchess. There is 
the resemblance between the father on the defensive and 
the son on the offensive. For my own part I can give only 
one judgment on these facts. It is quite inconclusive — and it 
amounts only to this, that in a room of strangers, himself a 
stranger to me, I was able to pick out Hyman Barnett Zaharoff. 
On the other hand, there are certain definite resemblances in 
externals which are hereditary and decisive of heredity ; for 
instance, the place, axial position, and shape of the ear. The 
difference between the round, protruding ears of Mr. Hyman 
and the flat, big-lobed characteristic shape of Sir Basil's ear is 
obvious even to the untrained and non-scientific observer. But 
one needs to have for comparison a picture of the mother, 
Haje Elka Karolinski, to see whether this deviation from the 
Basil earform does not originate with her. You can see we 
are dealing here only with indications. 

But there remains a substratum of fact. First, what was 
related by the former actress about Sir Basil's mention, thirty 
odd years ago, of his past and his son in Russia. Secondly, 
there are the childish memories of Mr. Hyman so far as they 
concern definite marks on the body of his father, the stub 
middle-toes, and the pod-shaped scars : 



44 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

i. Let me for a minute put myself in the position, Mr. Hyman, 
of Sir Basil's lawyers. Suppose they say that the story 
of the actress is simply a misunderstanding, and that 
when Sir Basil spoke of Russia he was referring to his 
stay there from 1888 to 1890? 

he. He did not only speak of his stay there, but of a son. 
1. But suppose his lawyers say that those body marks of 
which you speak — that is, if they really do exist on 
his body — you heard of from that unfaithful servant 
in 191 3, who took your money and gave away his 
private telephone number ? 

he. Then I shall bring witnesses to prove that I knew about 
them long before that, I have been looking for him 
since I was sixteen and I often mentioned these marks. 
1. Could you really produce those witnesses ? 

he. I can find them. I will find them. And I shall prove by my 
blood that he is my father. Let them test his blood and 
mine. 
1. Investigation into blood groups can prove only that a 
person is not the son of a particular man. And then 
only under definite conditions. And only if the blood 
group of the mother is also known. 

he. But I am in the right ! I am in the right ! 

That last outburst echoed in my ears for hours after I had left 
him. 

But let us get back to our investigation, back to Constanti- 
nople, back to the "gap" of 1865 to 1870. Whether the existence 
of such a gap is sufficiently proved by what has been produced 
as evidence, I leave the reader to decide. And if it is proved, 
is the story of Mr. Hyman Barnett ZaharofF to be used to let 
us fill it ? Let the reader again judge. Manel Sahar — the differ- 
ence in the Christian name Mr. Hyman explains by saying that 
here it is a matter of a Jewish name which is quite different 
from the name on the official birth certificate — this Manel 
Sahar can quite easily have deserted from the Russian army 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 45 

or been discharged, and once again bobbed up in Constanti- 
nople in 1870. Here there is a certain psychological veri- 
similitude ; we find in Sir Basil a decided tendency to get out 
of a place which he does not like with a certain celerity. Mr. 
Hyman's story of a stay by his father in Siberia — that in Russia 
is equivalent to saying that he was a convict — can be very 
plausibly linked up to the "policeman-murder complex" 
to which we shall be turning our attention almost imme- 
diately. And when Mr. Hyman in his childhood memories 
speaks of how his father made a passing reappearance when he 
was six or seven — this was the occasion when Haje Elka Karo- 
linski obtained a separation — that once again coincides in a 
way that certainly gives one furiously to think with the fact 
that in the year 1874 or 1875 Basil Zaharoff disappeared from 
the place where he was then living, Athens, without leaving a 
trace, lived we do not know where, and some months later 
appeared again. We shall come to that, too, later on. 

There is only one thing certain, and that is that in 1870 
Basil Zaharoff was once again in Constantinople. And now 
we come to what is perhaps the most adventurous part 
of an adventurous youth, to Zaharoff's "murder of a 
policeman." 

Let us take the tales first. They are fairly widespread wherever 
there are Greeks and Turks, and they differ only in detail. 
I shall set them out in two versions, in that of Sir Basil's 
colleague in the Fire Brigade, the beggar H., and in that of the 
Greek Banker Ch. 

It will be remembered that I did not take down verbatim 
what H. said. I have already mentioned what he said about 
"the flight of 1 86 j." In connection with the real "murder 
complex," I find an entry in my diary which I reproduce 
without change : 

An Arabian Nights' tale. Quaint old villain in a brothel. 
Alleges that the armaments man Z. was a colleague of his in 



46 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

the Fire Brigade in Constantinople. Z. after some trouble or 
other disappeared for some years. Asked that I'd be discreet. 
Gave him a tip and then he spun the yarn as enthusiastically 
as the storyteller of legend. Zaharoffhad done a bit of burglary 
on the occasion of a fire in his uncle's premises. Was put in 
gaol, made a rope out of his blankets and got away. Plenty 
of plausible detail, e.g. an old fellow, a "lifer," was in gaol with 
Zaharoff, wouldn't risk escaping with him, had money but was 
a miserly devil and wouldn't give it. Finally lent Zaharoff five 
francs and got a receipt for them. Zaharoff didn't get out of 
the gaol, but got into the office and stole the documents in his 
case. Had then to wait until the gates were opened in the 
morning. Shot down the policeman who opened them, got on 
board an English ship, thus got to England and became a 
millionaire I All the Greeks are proud of the villainies of their 
national heroes. 

Now let us come to the other witness, the banker Ch. 
Ch. is an old man, a Greek by nationality, who lives in Paris. 
A friend who heard that I was interested in Sir Basil brought 
us together. "He can tell you all you want to know ; he is 
Sir Basil's oldest friend ; he was in the primary school with him 
in Athens." Anyone who has read what has been already 
written can imagine with what excitement I looked forward 
to the meeting. Primary school in Athens, thought I ; then 
Sir Basil is not content with four birthplaces ; he wants five. 
The meeting was a little disillusioning. When the old gentle- 
man saw that I already knew something, he didn't feel so happy 
and denied that he had ever said that he was at school with 
Sir Basil. "I only got to know him," he said, "when we were 
both grown-up." When, where, how? It came out that Ch. 
had once been at dinner with Sir Basil in the company of 
the Prime Minister Venizelos and some others. "Would you 
describe Sir Basil to me ?" I asked in a friendly tone. He 
scented a trap and coldly advised me to get a photograph if 
I wanted to know what Sir Basil looked like. But we soon got 
on good terms again and he began to talk. Of course, he began 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 47 

with the rather original request that I should not mention his 
name. I promised. Then at last he began : 

he. Basil Zaharoff broke into his uncle's strong-box in Con- 
stantinople and stole from it. He was arrested and held 
for investigation, and he would have been let out on 
bail but he could not find the money, and his family 
too turned against him. Then Zaharoff escaped by the 
roof having made a rope out of his sheet. In order to 
get to the roof he had to force open the lead sheets 
with his pocket knife. When he was searched, the 
pocket knife was overlooked ; it was in his overcoat. 
When he was leaving the house he ran into a policeman. 
To save himself he stuck the knife into the policeman's 
ribs. Thus he got to England, and from that moment, 
as you can imagine, he couldn't go back to Turkey. 
Hence his hate of the Turks. 
1. How did you know all this, Mr. Ch. ? 
he. He said so himself. 

1. He told you at that dinner ? 
he (very excited). He did not tell it to me, but to a Russian 
Grand Duke who was my client, and the latter told it 
to me. 
1. Might I ask the name of the Grand Duke ? 
he. No, I'm sorry. 

1. And how long is it since Sir Basil told this story ? 
he. Oh, a good long time ago. It must have been about 1880 
or 1890. 
1. And do you think the story is true ? 
he. He most certainly did somebody in. 

1. Are you a Venizelist, Mr. Ch. ? 
he. Of course I'm a Venizelist. 

So far Ch. Here again I had the story of the murder of a 
policeman by Zaharoff combined with the robbing of his 
kinsman's strong-box. With the story of my vain attempt to 
get the documents — for there must have been documents — 
from the archives of the Criminal Court in Constantinople I 



48 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

will not trouble the reader. I was already aware that documents 
concerning Zaharoff have a trick of disappearing into thin 
air, so that the mere absence of documents did not seem to be 
any proof of Zaharoff's innocence. My next step was to get 
information about the prison in Constantinople to which 
people held for investigation were taken in 1870, to find out 
whether it was possible to escape by the roof, that is by a roof 
in which sheets of metal were used. I was laughed at ; the thing 
was fantastical. None the less I had the murder story told me 
again in a third, fourth, and fifth version, and in almost the 
same detail. It became ever clearer to me that all this must 
have sprung from a common source, and that common source 
the truth. Then actually Sir Basil Zaharoff had committed a 
murder and had caused the documents to disappear I 

I was on a false trail. I do not want to be credited with a feat 
that is not mine ; I have to thank a friend for the solution. 
I told him about this persistent and insoluble tale of murder 
in connection with Zaharoff; I told him both versions as I 
have told them here, and he laughed and said, "It's pure 
Casanova." 

1. What do you mean ? 
he. His flight over the lead roof. 

He was just joking. He had no more recollection of the 
exact details of that part of Casanova's memoirs than I had. 
He had only risked a jest because of the expressions "flight 
by the roof" and "sheets of lead," and I didn't pay much 
attention to it. It was months later when I chanced in 
an odd moment of leisure to turn over the page of the 
Venetian's autobiography. I hit on his "flight over the 
lead roofs of Venice" — you will find it in the fifth volume 
of the twelve-volume edition — and to my utter amazement 
I read : 

1. I got to the covering of the roof which was all of lead. 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 49 

I got my knife between the lower edge and the lead sheet 
and was able to loosen the latter. 

2. I spent four hours cutting up bedclothes, coverlet, 
mattress, and straw mattress to make a rope. 

3 I asked him to lend me thirty sequins. The old man 

impressed upon me that I didn't need any money to escape, 
that he had none, that if anything happened to me the money 
would be lost, anything and everything to cover his miserliness. 
Finally, weeping bitterly, I asked if he couldn't spare me two 
sequins. He gave them to me with the request to acknowledge 
my debt to him. . . . 

4. . . . with recesses full of papers. Here were the archives. 
I was in the ducal chancellery. I opened the desk and found 
the copy of a letter. . . . 

5. I took my knife and I uttered a prayer to God that the 
man who opened the door would offer no resistance, for if 
he did I should have to stick him with my knife, and I had 
made up my mind to do it. 

These five passages were enough. Compare them with the 
salient portions of the story of the beggar H. and the banker 
Ch. They agree exactly. (And they also agree in an important 
point with a report in the Mikra Ephemeris of Athens of 1874 
which, in order not to complicate things too much, I will 
deal with in its own place.) In other words, it is maintained 
that Zaharoff had lived a part of Casanova's memoirs ! 

That is the first point. The next is perhaps even more 
important. Wherein do the two stories differ ? Wherein do 
the reports of H. and Ch. depart from their model, the Casanova 
memoirs ? 

1. H. talks of a "robbery of business premises" ; Ch. of "a 
robbery from the strongbox of his uncle." There is nothing 
about these in Casanova. 

2. H. talks of "a flight to an English ship" ; Ch. says "thus 
he got to England." There is nothing of that in Casanova. 

3. Ch. says : "He was held for investigation and they would 



50 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

have let him out on bail, but he could not find the money 
and his family, too, turned against him." Of that Casanova 
knows as little as about the pocket knife which was "over- 
looked when he was searched ; it was in his overcoat." 

As our investigation proceeds we shall see that the elements 
in this fantastic tale of a murder and an escape, which are 
not taken from Casanova, possess a very important kernel of 
truth. What can we say then ? This without doubt, that some- 
one took a collection of incidents which in their original form 
were probably credible and not very creditable, and with the 
help of a "romantic element" which somehow he came across, 
wove them into a tale of sheer fantasy. Or let us be more 
tender with him : he reduced them to a good tale. And took 
so long in touching it all up that the whole thing, facts and 
fantasies and chance discoveries, formed a whole whose 
elements it was impossible to disentangle and which was 
perfectly incredible, to any reasonable person. 

Who did all that ? We have the testimony of the banker Ch. ; 
Zaharoff was the original teller of the tale. And he told it to 
a Grand Duke whose name I was not allowed to learn. But we 
may hear of him again when we come to deal with Sir Basil's 
life in St. Petersburg in the years 1888 to 1890. Then he was — 
according to Baroness P. — playing the part of a "lady-killer," the 
part of a "Casanova." Then he made the Venetian's memoirs 
his own. A desire to make oneself interesting, an operation 
which he combined with a steady attempt to cover his tracks. 
A man alleges that he has committed a murder so that people 
will no longer trouble about the robbery of a relative, or what- 
ever else it was which he has mentioned en passant. Do not 
let us be led astray by this cunning manoeuvre, and let us 
examine a little more closely this lesser crime. 

How does the case stand here ? Is that, too, in spite of every- 
thing, just another invention ? Here we can go to work with a 
greater assurance, for here Sir Basil has presented us with an 
accredited "confession." He is an able fighter against publicity, 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 5 1 

and in his fight he has always a second line of defence to which 
he can retire if the front line gets too dangerous. That is what 
happened in Athens in 1873-74. His murder story recoiled 
fourfold on his head, a Press campaign was started against 
him ; he began to feel the ground go under his feet. Then he 
fled to his protector, Skuludis, who later was Premier, and 
told him "the whole truth." Skuludis did not keep this "whole 
truth" to himself, and Lewinsohn, to whose biography Skuludis 
wrote an introduction, reproduces it. I quote textually : 

I was requested by a maternal uncle in Constantinople 
(Sewastopoulos) to enter his business. He was a man of weak 
constitution and his numerous illnesses limited his commercial 
activity. I endeavoured to take his place and to look after his 
interests whenever I could. I worked most zealously day after 
day, and so it came about that I soon represented him in most 
matters concerned with the administration of the business. 

My work turned out extremely profitable for my uncle. At 
the end of the first year I was able to submit to him a balance- 
sheet which showed a considerable net profit. My uncle 
acknowledged this, praised me for my zeal and business acu- 
men, and entrusted me with the commercial administration of 
his firm. A second year went by. The balance sheet which I 
drew up at the end of this year showed a considerable increase 
in the net profits. I then received from my uncle a letter in 
which he thanked me most warmly for the good results and at 
the same time made me his partner. I was to participate in the 
profits of the business with a commission of so and so much 
per cent. 

After some months had passed I expected my uncle to give 
me something on account of my commission, but my hope was 
vain and I received nothing. Towards the end of the third year 
of my activities I requested him to fulfil his obligations and 
pay me my commission. He again refused. He thus deliberately 
violated the contract which he had given me in writing. He 
failed to fulfil his promise. 

In these circumstances it appeared to me impossible to work 
for him any longer. I resolved to leave the firm in which I was 



J 2 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

thus deprived of the rewards of my labour, but I considered 
myself justified in taking the sum my uncle owed me from 
our commission account, for after all I was his partner. I acted 
in accordance with my decision, and drawing up an exact 
statement of the balance in my favour, withdrew the amount 
from the safe and went to England to set up on my own. First, 
however, I informed my uncle. I wrote him in due form that I 
was retiring from his firm since he had not fulfilled his obliga- 
tions, and that I had collected my outstanding commission. 

When my uncle received this letter he fell into a rage. He 
knew, of course, that his business had only been resuscitated by 
my efforts, and that my departure meant a severe loss to him, 
so he wanted to take his revenge. He brought an accusation 
against me, and since I was no longer subject to Turkish 
justice he pursued me through the English judicial authorities, 
finding no means too expensive to make me feel his anger and 
his power. 

At first he succeeded. I was asked to go to a police station 
in London and the indictment was read to me which had been 
drawn up in Constantinople. I was accused of embezzlement 
and fraud. The charges brought against me by my uncle 
appeared to the authorities to be plausible. Circumstances were 
against me. I had left Constantinople suddenly, and the last 
letter I had written to my uncle confirmed the fact that I had 
taken money from the safe of our business. I had no means of 
proving my innocence and the legality of what I had done, for 
I had lost the only document on which I could base my claims, 
namely, the letter in which my uncle had made me a partner in 
the firm. All my explanations and assertions were of no avail ; 
I was not believed ; I was arrested and put in prison to await 
trial. 

Weeks and months went by. Finally the day was fixed for the 
trial. The lawyers whom my uncle had engaged in London 
appeared after all to be not too sure of their ground. They 
requested him to appear in London at the trial to corroborate 
the charges against me on oath. And indeed my uncle did not 
mind paying for his revenge. In the midst of winter he under- 
took the long journey from Constantinople to England and 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 53 

appeared in London in time for the trial. The day approached. 
I still did not know how I was to prove my innocence to the 
court, for my uncle's letter which would have immediately 
eliminated all doubt could not be found. If my uncle were to 
take it upon himself to commit perjury and the court believed 
him, I was lost. 

All my ponderings did not help me. The warder opened the 
door of my cell and ordered me to follow him to the court. 
The English winter is severe and the morning when my case 
was to be tried was particularly cold. I had in my trunk a 
warm cloak which I had not worn for a considerable time. I 
put it on, for I was unaware that accused persons in England 
are not taken to the court through the open streets. Instead of 
this, the warder led me through a long subterranean passage 
which connected the prison with the court-house. The passage 
was damp and musty and the wintry cold pierced all my joints. 
I wrapped myself tightly in my cloak and buried my hands 
deep in the pockets. 

My fingers touched a paper. I looked at it — and gave a shout 
of joy. It was my uncle's letter in which he appointed me his 
partner — the very letter that had gone astray for so long and 
for which I had sought everywhere in vain. I could now appear 
in court with a tranquil mind, for I was sure of my case. My 
uncle was already sitting there with his lawyers. There were 
some journalists and a few curious spectators. Then came the 
judges. Thus the case was tried and the question of guilt 
decided with full publicity. 

The chairman of the court first of all asked my uncle what 
was his accusation. My uncle replied that I had stolen his 
money and absconded with it to England. The chairman 
ordered me to reply to my uncle's charges. I replied that I was 
innocent ; that my uncle had appointed me his partner and that 
this justified me in having recourse to the safe and withdrawing 
the money that was due to me. This concluded the interroga- 
tions. The statements were again opposed, as in the preliminary 
examination, and it all depended on whether the court gave 
more credence to my uncle or to me. Although the chairman 
did his best to extract the truth, circumstances were against 



54 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

me, for I was the accused, and as a matter of course it was 
supposed that I would tell lies to help myself. My uncle, how- 
ever, appeared in the capacity of witness, and therefore had to 
make his statement under oath. And so it was. The chairman 
raised the Bible which lay on the table in front of him, held 
it out to my uncle, and directed him to swear on the gospels 
that he had told the truth and nothing but the truth. 

In the court there was dead silence. Everyone felt that my 
fate would be decided at this moment. I myself was still un- 
willing to believe that my uncle would let himself be carried 
by his hatred of me so far as to swear a false oath. But he 
was actually about to testify to his statement. I then turned to 
the chairman and cried out, "Mr. Chairman, do not permit 
him to take the oath, for he will certainly commit perjury 1" 

There was the greatest excitement in court. My uncle 
appeared to be thunderstruck. All eyes were suddenly directed 
at me. The chairman broke off the preparations for taking the 
oath, and asked me in a severe tone what I meant by such an 
interruption. I told him the truth — that a few minutes ago 1 
had found my uncle's letter, with his own signature, appointing 
me his partner. With these words I handed the paper which I 
had discovered in the pocket of my cloak to the chairman. He 
examined it, but naturally he could not decipher it since it 
was written in Greek. He directed the Greek interpreter who 
was present at the trial to translate it into English. The wording 
of the letter was so clear that there could be no quibble as to 
its meaning. 

The chairman asked my uncle a final question as he held 
the letter in front of him — "Is this your signature ?" — and my 
uncle, though he had just been ready to deny everything on 
oath, broke down completely and was obliged to acknowledge 
the genuineness of the letter and the signature. In order to 
make quite certain the chairman put my uncle on oath in 
regard to this statement. This concluded the trial. The court 
ordered that I should be set free immediately. 

Let us be precise. This is not the actual text of Zaharoff's 
confession — it was not made in writing in any case — but a 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 55 

text produced by Skuludis from memory and handed over to 
Lewinsohn. We must read what Skuludis has himself to say : 

I made the acquaintance of Basil Zaharoff about fifty years 
ago in Athens. He was young, enterprising, and intelligent, but 
opinion about him was divided in Athens society at that time. 
Some treated him with the mistrust with which the most dis- 
reputable individuals are regarded, while others thought him a 
victim of malicious misunderstanding. Basil Zaharoff had just 
then come from a trial in London, where he had emerged as the 
moral victor from a scandal disseminated by ill-informed or 
evil-minded persons. I took the trouble at the time to investi- 
gate carefully the records and the reports of the trial in the 
English newspapers, and to study all the details of the affair 
which led his calumniators to spread their scandalous stories 
about Zaharoff. 

Since then our personal relations have developed most 
cordially, and I must confess that I have read with increasing 
astonishment the untruths, inaccuracies, and malicious reports 
which have been published in the newspapers about the origins, 
the past, the achievements, and the character of Basil Zaharoff 
by whose friendship I am honoured. 

A pleasant picture, this manly and sympathetic defence of a 
friend maligned, a friend who has so frankly confessed the 
little sins and faults of youth, sins so easily pardoned. And 
note also how trouble was taken to test it all by reference to 
the documents in the case and the reports in the English 
newspapers. When we get to this second line of defence there 
is now no mention of the romantic episodes of murder and 
escape. But we cannot take this testimony either at its face 
value, and our surest appeal is, perhaps, to our old friend 
Ro., the agent of princes, who as an expert in Eastern story- 
telling has already told us his opinion of the pleasant stories 
of Sir Basil's youthful occupations. 

After I had told him about the testimony given by Zaharoff 
himself he began as follows : 



J 6 2AHAR0FF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

In the first place there is a sad absence of previous history. 
The story really begins in the year 1870. At that time Zaharoff 
was in Constantinople, according to one version a "guide," 
according to another a bamal, that is to say, a porter at the 
harbour. This at least is certain, that he had turned traitor to 
the clothing trade and that his activities were regarded as 
rather compromising to the family. Something had to be done. 
One day Zaharoff's uncle, Antoniades, his mother's brother, 
who was a cunning little Greek trader in Galata, fell ill. There 
was a risk that he would have to close down his business, for 
Uncle Antoniades was head of the firm, cashier, and counter- 
hand all in one. The family came to the rescue and proposed 
that he should take his nephew Basileos into the shop. Basil 
was a hefty fellow, shrewd, spoke every language that was 
necessary — Greek, Turkish, Spanish, English, French, Russian. 
He didn't want any wages. He would sleep on the premises 
and take his meals in the little eating-house close by. The 
Galata shop was in one of the small side streets between the 
Customs House and the Rue de Galata, and not more than a 
stone's throw away from Galata's "pleasure centre." Basil 
took on the job without more ado. He had been having some 
slight trouble with the police these days, and besides the com- 
petition in his profession was so fierce that he thought it was 
high time that he threw it up. 

He worked very hard at his uncle's business. He was a 
magnificent hand at haggling ; he was a good buyer, and after 
a year of him his uncle told him that he would be glad to 
guarantee him a share of the profits for the further years of his 
service with him, if the increase in profits was maintained. Now 
Sir Basil alleges that he greatly increased the turnover, that his 
uncle would not pay him his share, that he, Basil, then decided 
to resign his post. He himself reckoned up what was owed him, 
took that amount out of the till and went off to London. That 
isn't the uncle's story, and the Greeks of Constantinople who 
even now relate the affairs of the Zaharoff family in all sorts of 
spicy detail give a very different account of what happened. 
According to them Basil Zaharoff had never been his uncle's 
partner, but was just an employee. Basil Zaharoff had long 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 57 

been obsessed with the idea of escaping into the big world 
outside. But how was a Greek employee to get the four or 
five hundred francs that were needed ? Even in the safe in his 
uncle's shop there was no such sum during the owner's 
absence. No Greek shopkeeper ever keeps his money on the 
premises. But there were in the shop various bales of woven 
and other cloth. Basil Zaharoff got as much as he could of it 
out of the shop, went off to Galata Tscharschia where auctions 
are held and put up one bale after the other. After he had got 
in about a thousand francs he got on board a ship and shook 
the dust of Constantinople off his shoes. 

When Uncle Antoniades got back to his shop at the end of 
September, he found the pillaged premises shut up and the 
neighbours told him that for a fortnight no one had seen his 
nephew, Basil Zaharoff. He inquired of the family in Tatavla, 
but they too had no news. Basil's parents assured him that he 
had disappeared one day without saying anything to anybody. 
Constantinople rumour has it that the family knew very well 
that Basil had bolted from his home town, that the family 
were in the know all the time, and they were quite calm in the 
belief that Basil having got to London had nothing to fear. 
That the Constantinople police should track him to London 
didn't seem likely. 

But they had forgotten about the wonderful information 
service that the Greeks had organized. The Greeks are one big 
family. If anything happens in the Greek colony in Trieste, the 
Greeks in New York know all about it, just as do the Greeks 
in Smyrna or Paris. Very soon Uncle Antoniades heard from 
a Greek friend in Manchester that his nephew had turned up 
in the Greek quarter in London and was feverishly trying to 
make a living. It cost the victimized uncle a couple of pounds 
gold to get the Constantinople authorities to take the case up 
in London. At the instance of the police of Stambul, Basil 
Zaharoff was one day arrested in London and charged with 
theft ; damages demanded — io.ooo francs. The uncle had 
assessed the value of his goods much higher than the auction 
harpies of Galata Tscharschia. 

The arrest of Basil Zaharoff naturally was very soon known 



J 8 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

in Constantinople. If the injured uncle had stabbed or shot his 
errant nephew no one in the Greek colony would have bothered 
very much. But that he should deliver up his nephew to 
foreigners, that was an offence against the Greek sense of 
national solidarity. He was threatened with bloody revenge ; 
his windows were broken ; he got anonymous letters, and 
literally went in fear of his life. But proceedings had already 
begun. Uncle Antoniades would willingly have all the coil 
undone. The family persuaded him to go himself to London. 
Things looked bad for Basil Zaharoff. The accusation and the 
sworn testimony of the injured uncle were already in the 
hands of the English court when Mr. Antoniades arrived in 
London. 

Now we get to the story of that dramatic day in court and 
of the letter. You don't need to have an Oriental imagination 
to know how the letter got there. The uncle had to get his 
nephew out of the hole, for if Basil Zaharoff got put into gaol 
for a couple of years, then Uncle Antoniades might as well 
consider his own death-warrant signed. In a crisis like this his 
lawyer had to advise him how to make his nephew's innocence 
plausible. A letter — ante-dated — was written and a way was 
found to get it into the hands of the accused. All that happened 
just at the last minute, which can be explained by the fact that 
the uncle had got to London only three days before the trial. 
The marvellous tale of the letter unexpectedly turning up in 
the overcoat pocket is just blah. But of course Sir Basil would 
not give away a cunning trick like that. 

This time, too, I have given Ro.'s evidence verbatim, so 
as to let the reader judge for himself. Now there is statement 
against statement. Which is correct ? For those who know 
all the circumstances, Ro.'s version — although it, too is not 
free from a certain Oriental embellishment — sounds distinctly 
more credible than ZaharofFs testimony. One has only to read 
again that dramatic tale of the London trial. On the other 
hand, I had to say to myself that there was a certain credibility 
about the Zaharoff story. Had not the Greek Premier, Skuludis, 
himself personally studied the documents in the case and the 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 59 

reports in the London newspapers? And Lewinsohn, too, writes 
that ZaharofF's story would sound fantastic "were not the course 
of the trial known to be, by reports in the London newspapers, 
on the whole as he describes it." Whose, then, is the true story ? 
Ro.'s or ZaharofF's cum Skuludis and Lewinsohn ? 

There was nothing for it but to betake myself to the Old 
Bailey in London, where the trial took place. If I could rely 
on the chronological table which I had worked out from all 
the other dates which Zaharoff supplies, the incident must have 
happened in 1875; 1875, then. Find mention of the release 
of a Zacharias Basileos Zaharoff. Or find the name cited in 
connection with that of the uncle whose name is officially 
given as Sewastopoulos, a name by which, if Ro. is to be 
believed, Antoniades very probably was also known, a con- 
nection arising out of accountancy differences in a particular 
business relationship. There was nothing to be found. I had 
had the foresight to have the registers of 1874 and 1876 at 
my hand. I looked for Sewastopoulos, Antoniades, Zaharoff, 
and, as a precaution, Zacharias ; yes, even Zahar and Zohar — 
nothing. Then I remembered something Ro. had said to me, 
and how he and a French politician had together searched the 
archives of the Old Bailey for the documents, and had not 
found them. Then there were now two possibilities. Either 
this document too, like so many Zaharoff documents, had 
totally disappeared or my work of literary detection plus 
my analysis of "the murder complex" was worthless, and even 
the portions of it which I had alleged must have a substratum 
of truth in them were invented or, like the story of the flight 
over the lead roofs, came from sources which still remained 
unknown to me. Once again my investigations had just 
petered out. 

I was ready to give the whole thing up, but a young col- 
laborator of mine in my London researches was luckily 
cleverer than I, and undertook the difficult task of pushing 
investigation a litde further. She quickly made a discovery. 



60 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

Under the date January 13, 1 873, she found the following entry 
in the register of the Old Bailey : 

61. Zacharoff Zacharia Basilius, agent pledging goods en- 
trusted to him for sale. 

Once again I was on the trail ; I had simply let myself be 
led off it by wrong time-data. Or was I now on the trail of 
another case altogether which had escaped Sir Basil's watchful 
eye ? The phrase "agent pledging goods entrusted to him for 
sale" was rather difficult to reconcile with Sir Basil's story 
that he had robbed the strongbox of his uncle Sewastopoulos, 
or, if you like, Antoniades, and declared that he regarded the 
money he took as his share of profits. But perhaps we could 
combine the two. Then the apparent discrepancy would have 
arisen from the malicious accusations of the uncle athirst for 
revenge, who sought to land his nephew and partner in gaol, 
and later so ignominiously broke down when he was taking the 

oath that the English court Let us quote Zaharoff again : 

"My uncle broke down completely and was obliged to acknow- 
ledge the genuineness of his signature. And the court ordered 
that I should be set free immediately." It must be the same. 
I could not see the documents of the Old Bailey case and, if 
I had seen them, I would not have been able to quote them. 
But there should be accounts in the English papers of the case. 
Had not both Skuludis and Lewinsohn read them ? A fresh 
search began and a new discovery was made. Here are the 
reports of which Skuludis and Lewinsohn speak as supporting 
Sir Basil's story : 

. . . There were also three cases of manslaughter, the cir- 
cumstances of which the Deputy Recorder related in detail. 
He next referred briefly to the case of Zacharia Basileos 
Zacharoff, a Greek, who stands charged with illegally pledging 
merchandise of very considerable value, the property of a 
merchant at Constantinople, with which he had been intrusted. 
This had been made illegal by statute and probably the Grand 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 6 1 

Jury under the circumstances would have no difficulty in 
finding a true bill. There was also a more serious case against 
. . . (The Times, Jan. 14, 1873.) 

Excellent ! Now we were getting at what really happened, 
and now it will become evident that this "merchant of 
Constantinople," the cloth dealer and Uncle Sewastopoulos- 
Antoniades, had lied and his nephew and partner had been 
perfectly justified in digging into the till. Or was it possible 
that he had not dug into the till, but had just put a few bales of 
cloth up to auction in order to get what was owed him ? If 
so, then it seemed to prove that Ro. was the better-informed 
of the witnesses. I went on with the investigations, and in 
The Times of Friday, January 17, 1873, 1 found the following : 

Criminal Court 
Zacharia Basilius Zacharoff, 22, was indicted for that he, 
being an agent intrusted by one Manuel Hiphentides of 
Constantinople, merchant, for the purpose of sale with pos- 
session, among other goods, 25 cases of gum and 169 sacks 
of gall of the value together of £1,000, did unlawfully and 
without any authority from his principal, for his own use 
make a deposit of the said goods as and by way of pledge. 

Mr. Straight appeared for the prosecution and Mr. Tindal 
Atkinson for the defence. 

The circumstances of the case were reported at length when 
the prisoner was before the Lord Mayor at the Mansion House. 

Mr. Atkinson applied that the thousand franc note found 
in the possession of the prisoner might be handed over to 
his solicitor in order that he might be able to bring from 
Constantinople a witness material to the defence, and that 
the case might be postponed until the next session. 

Mr. Straight opposed the application and stated the cir- 
cumstances under which the charge had been brought against 
the prisoner. 

Affidavits on both sides having been put in — 

The Deputy Recorder said he usually looked upon such 



6z ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

applications with favour, but in this case he was not satisfied 
that he ought to make the order asked for. 

Subsequently by advice of his counsel the prisoner with- 
drew his plea of "Not Guilty" and pleaded "Guilty." 

Mr. Straight said that he had communicated with his learned 
friend, and he proposed to his lordship to refrain from passing 
sentence till next session. He anticipated that in the interim 
certain things would be done which would enable him to ask 
his lordship to pass only a nominal sentence upon the prisoner 
— namely, that he might be liberated on his own recognizances 
to appear for judgment when called upon. 

Mr. Atkinson said the prisoner was a foreigner and was 
quite unaware of the Act of Parliament under which the 
indictment had been framed and he hoped the course indicated 
by his learned friend would be pursued. 

The Deputy Recorder consented to the application and 
judgment was accordingly postponed. 

Let us stop here. There is something wrong, surely. We have 
already said that this Zacharia Basilius Zacharoff on this 
occasion in 1873 was twenty-two instead of twenty-four. 
But how has the wicked uncle transformed himself into this 
Manuel Hiphentides who, so far as we know, was no relation 
to Basil Zaharoff ? Then Zaharoff was not the partner of his 
uncle, but of a man unrelated to him ? Have we come across 
the name Hiphentides already ? If we look back we shall 
find that "the rich man of the Phanar," who, it is alleged, 
had the young Zaharoff educated until he was eighteen at 
the English mission school, this patron whose existence we 
rather doubted, was called Iphestidi. Perhaps his name more 
correctly spelled was Hiphentides. And did Sir Basil atone 
in some measure for the minor offence which he committed 
against this worthy man by embezzling 25 boxes of gum and 
169 sacks of gallnuts, by transforming him at least in his 
later accounts into a noble protector, a Maecenas ? Here we 
have a thread in our hands, but it breaks once again. 

Twenty-five boxes of gum and 169 sacks of gallnuts — how 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 63 

did these get into a clothdealer's shop ? Has this whole affair 
actually nothing whatever to do with Basil Zaharoff's activities 
in his uncle's shop ? I should not like to make too hasty a 
statement or to be so petty as to trouble overmuch about 
names and types of goods. But so far the circumstances and 
course of the case have no resemblance at all to Sir Basil's 
"testimony." Still, the case was not yet finished. There was 
still the possibility that Sir Basil cum Skuludis and Lewinsohn 
told the truth, and that that dramatic affair of the oath and the 
letter in which the uncle, Antoniades-Sewastopoulos, shared — 
or, if you will, the partner, principal, and benefactor, Hiphen- 
tides — would be found in the sequel to these proceedings. 
So I went on to trace the case to its end. But the end was dis- 
illusion. I could only find one more mention of it in the 
English Press. 

Zacharia Basilius Zacharoff, a Greek, aged 22, described 
as a merchant who had been convicted at the previous session 
of unlawfully pledging goods of great value which had been 
intrusted to him for a special purpose, was called up to receive 
judgment. 

Mr. Straight said, addressing the bench, the prisoner being 
a foreigner the complainant was now disposed to put the most 
favourable construction on his conduct. That being so, he 
suggested that the prisoner should be now allowed to go at 
large on his own recognizances and be required to come up 
for judgment when called upon. 

Mr. H. Tindal Atkinson, the prisoner's counsel, assented 
to that course. 

The Deputy Recorder reminded the prisoner that at the 
close of the trial at last session the statements were made 
which induced him to postpone sentence in order to afford 
the prisoner an opportunity of making compensation for the 
wrong that had been inflicted on the prosecutor, and he was 
now told the prisoner had made an offer to do so. He ordered 
the prisoner to enter into his own recognizances in £100 to 
come up for judgment if called upon. 



64 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

The prisoner entered into the stipulated recognizances and 
was therefore liberated. (Tie Times, Feb. 4, 1874.) 

The position now has become clear at last. We must take 
final leave of all the fine drama of the letter in the overcoat 
and the attempted perjury of the wicked uncle. Here our 
sceptical friend Ro. has been well worthy of confidence. 
Uncle and cloth — that does not tally. Much more credible 
is this Mr. Hiphentides and his very different wares. Partner ? 
— of that, too, there is no trace. The young man embezzled 
the goods, and Mr. Hiphentides had him arrested in London. 
But here comes the rub. What did Ro. say ? "His uncle was 
threatened with bloody revenge ; his windows were broken ; 
he got anonymous letters and literally went in fear of his life." 
And now what does the somewhat jejune report in the English 
paper say ? The plaintiff asked that the accused "should be 
dealt with as leniently as possible." And if he (the uncle) 
did not exactly come to London to smuggle a forged letter 
into the overcoat of the accused, his generosity, for which 
he was rewarded by Zaharoff with the tax-free promotion to 
be the noble Maecenas of his youth, was he still big enough 
to ask that the young miscreant be left off ? Not at all. He was 
content with letting him be bound over on security with the 
obligation "to come up for judgment if called upon." 

Zaharoff put up the money — and disappeared. Take this 
extract from a conversation with the former Premier of 
Greece, D : 

1. And 1873 ? 
he. In 1873 Zaharoff suddenly disappeared from Athens. For 
about two months. 
1. Only for two months ? 
he. Yes. He was in hiding. He had to wait until his lawyers 
settled something for him in London. Till then he could 
not go back to England. 
1. What was this something ? 
he. I'm afraid I have forgotten. 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 65 

Before we go on, let us spend still a moment or two on this 
murder-flight-embezzlement complex and go over again our 
annals of crime. Have we really got the solution of all the 
problems which Zaharoff himself has set and got to the 
bottom of the eye-witness stories supplied by so many, and 
especially by fireman H. and the banker Ch. ? Let us remember 
how, after we had excluded the Casanova elements, there still 
remained data which at first seemed incomprehensible and 
which certainly had no connection with the Venetian's memoirs, 
and how we undertook out of that which remained to re- 
construct the real course of events. We should have proof by 
example if this surplus could now be completely fitted into 
what we know to be the real framework of the case. 

H. speaks of a "robbery of the shop," Ch. of "a breaking 
into his uncle's strongbox." That has been already fully 
discussed. 

H. speaks of "a flight on an English ship." Ch. says "thus 
he got to England." Here, too, there is nothing more to say. 

But what about Ch.'s story : "He was held for investigation 
and was let out on bail, but he could not put up the money, 
and the family, too, turned against him" ? Here we find men- 
tion of what we had no record of until our London discovery — 
mention of bail. Anyone who is acquainted with the true way 
to deal with such documents knows that all that means this : 
He could not find security and could not get out of prison 
because his family turned against him. But evidently the 
family turned to him again — and also exercised a certain deli- 
cate pressure on Mr. Manuel Hiphentides. The result ? The 
security was forthcoming, and he was released. Thus a confir- 
mation of the declarations of Ro. and — if that is necessary 
really — of the reports in The Times. There is only one little 
inconsistency ; that prison where he languished, which for 
very good reasons we were unable to find in Constantinople, 
was actually in London. Certainly it has not a lead roof, but 
we need not trouble ourselves on that point. 



66 ZAHAROFF t THE ARMAMENTS KING 

What, then, is left ? Ch. can tell us of Zaharoff's pocket- 
knife which was "overlooked when he was searched," and 
which he "finally found in his overcoat." A detail, trivial in 
itself, but in investigations of this kind it is well never to 
ignore such details casually. We must not think of the concept 
"pocket-knife" but of the context. The context sounds familiar 
to us. Instead of the pocket-knife there appears another 
notable exhibit, to wit, the letter — and, almost word for word, 
Zaharoff's marvellous tale of the discovery of the letter that 
secured him freedom. The change of scene from London to 
Constantinople is made here also, and is typical. 

All the surplus data has now been put in its place and the 
proof supplied by example. The results agree. 

They agree, and yet they do not quite agree as we shall 
have to admit finally in spite of everything. One point remains 
to be cleared up. We have left it unconsidered so far, but we 
cannot rightly leave it so. In our investigation we found this 
fundamental formula, that "what is not in Casanova is true," 
and we have found it confirmed even down to verbal coinci- 
dence. But there is still one element which is not in Casanova, 
and we have up to now ignored it. That is the murder. Recall 
that the man who was escaping from the prison had to wait 
until the door was opened in the morning and then, in H.'s 
words, "he shot down the policeman as he opened it." Or as 
Ch. tells it : "In order to save himself he had to stick the 
knife in the ribs of the policeman." In Casanova the story is 
different. There it is said : 

... I saw a man with a great key in his hand coming to the 
stairs. I took my sponton [dagger] and placed myself at the door 
so that, as soon as it opened, I could get out and reach the 
stairs. I uttered a prayer to God that the man would not offer 
any resistance, for if he did I should be compelled to hew him 
down, and I had made up my mind to do it. 

The door opened and at the sight of me the poor fellow 
stood as if turned to stone. Without stopping, without uttering 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 67 

a word, I took advantage of his bewilderment and bolted down 
the stairs. 

What about that ? What can we do here to complete our epic ? 
Only the escape from the prison is in Casanova ; there is not 
a word about a murder. If we follow our formula which has 
hitherto been successfully applied, then it stands out clear and 
plain ; somewhere, sometime, somehow, Zaharoff killed a 
policeman. Remember the end of the conversation with Ch. 

1. And do you believe the story is true ? 
he. He certainly did someone in. 

1. Are you a Venizelist, Mr. Ch. ? 
he. Of course I am a Venizelist. 

But we are not Venizelists. And we can only say that for this 
murder by Basil Zaharoff there is not that exact proof which 
a conscientious investigator would silently accept. And if we 
look at things scientifically, we must simply also state that 
we have here only a piece of literary indication and circum- 
stantial evidence, which we are neither able nor willing to 
take as the truth. Nor is there any need. 

We have a thread in our hands, but we have ourselves 
broken it. 

Where did Basil Zaharoff go after his release from the 
London prison ? We have learned this from Premier D. — 
to Athens. Under the circumstances, a return to Constan- 
tinople would have been much too risky a venture. Here 
we are, then, in Athens in 1873. What did that city look like 
in that year ? There there dwells a very shrewd folk, very 
much inclined to take advantage of its neighbour, and so a 
very distrustful folk, of hard and daring traders, whose destiny 
it was to set up their houses and shops right on the ruins of 
a great civilization. Generally speaking, Athens of that day 
had the atmosphere of the average Turkish town, but as it 
progressed towards national autonomy and europeanization, 



68 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

it had lost its Oriental bloom, though not the fundamental 
Oriental conceptions in public and private life. It was a rather 
disillusioned Constantinople in little. Here, too, women were 
almost as carefully guarded as if they were in an Eastern 
harem. And here, too, this stringent morality had its other side, 
just as on the opposite coast of the JEgcan, just as in the 
Hellas of Socrates and the Symposium. In other words, the 
"foreigners' guide" had still golden opportunities to make 
money. 

After his adventure in England did Basil ZaharofF become 
a guide again ? Ro. says he did, and if respectable families in 
Athens boycotted him, it was, according to Ro., because he 
went back to that profession. 

i. Perhaps he was boycotted because news of the London 
case had reached Athens ? 
he. No. Athens isn't London. The deed that had made 
ZaharofF impossible in London, what was it in Athens ? 
A knavish trick, a clever bit of roguery, pure business 
acumen ! Remember the heroes of Troy. Odysseus, too, 
would no doubt have embezzled 25 boxes of gum and 
169 sacks of gallnuts if Circe had been such a fool as to 
entrust them to him. 

Now we know our Ro. and his peculiar attitude to all 
that is Greek. The truth probably lies half-way between. The 
Internationale Biographische Archiv of Berlin noted in the section 
devoted to ZaharofF — that was in 1928 before the books 
mentioned were published : 

He went to Athens and lived there as an employee in a shop 
and as a barman, and finally could not get employment. A 
relation of his who was a porter in a hotel recommended 
ZaharofF, who was extraordinarily gifted as a linguist and even 
then as a result of his contact with foreigners was master often 
languages, as a guide. 

That is somewhat different from Ro.'s account. And that, 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 69 

in spite of all that is said, the London incident did play a part 
in the campaign against Zaharoff in Athenian society is indi- 
cated by a noteworthy fact. It was the London affair which 
brought Zaharoff into contact with Skuludis, who later was 
Premier of Greece. 

Who is this Stephen Skuludis who plays so important a 
part in the life of Basil Zaharoff ? He was born in the island of 
Chios, not far from Smyrna, and later his family went to 
Constantinople and belonged to the rich circles in the Phanar. 
There he began to take an interest in the fate of his people, 
and so had a sure and comfortable political career in front of 
him. He tried his hand at political journalism. The usefulness 
of this young man with the many connections with the rich 
folk of the Phanar became obvious to the statesman Trikoupis. 
The young man was summoned to Athens, and there found 
his feet, and was living in great style when Basil Zaharoff, 
five years his junior, was "barman, then unemployed, and 
finally guide" in that city. 

What brought together the man with the assured career 
and the unsuccessful, compromised Zaharoff is not quite clear. 
The rumour factory has been hard at work on this also, but 
we are wary of rumours. They are the less trustworthy in that 
they all come from political opponents who want to bring 
up scandals against the private life of Skuludis, who was 
loyal to the throne. What does our Venizelist friend the 
ex-Premier, D., say ? "Skuludis was no statesman ; he was 
just a lackey of the king." When I repeated this to Ro., who 
was strongly sympathetic to the Greek royal house, he said : 
"That's nonsense. In Athens one could be somebody only if 
one were a foreign diplomatist — or what that gentleman calls 
a lackey of the king." Once again it is plain that it is hard to 
get the truth. The only English testimony which I can find 
to the character of Skuludis comes from a much later period 
— the war years. In his disrespectful manner, Mr. Compton 
Mackenzie writes : 
c» 



70 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

Mr. Skuludis, an octogenarian millionaire, of whose ex- 
asperating personality I can perhaps suggest a hint when I say 
that even Sir Francis Elliot once confessed that in any inter- 
view with Skuludis he was seized with an almost irresistible 
longing to take hold of his long beard and tweak it as hard as 
he could. 

In any case he was then an important and influential person 
when he invited to his house the young, compromised, but 
very skilful Zaharoff, who is described at that time as being 
"a good-looking, tall, blond-haired youth with bright eyes." 
Skuludis has related — and we may believe him — that at first 
he had no inkling at all of the nasty stories that were going 
round about Basil Zaharoff. Later on, these stories came to 
his ears, and among them must have been the story of the 
embezzlement case, with all its trimmings of prison, escape, 
and murder. These tales began to get the better of the young 
Zaharoff, and then he learned that Skuludis, too, had heard 
them and was turning from him. But let us go back here, 
too, to the actual words of the Skuludis-Lewinsohn version. 

If in the circumstances he were to lose time, it would be as 
good as admitting that all the accusations and suspicions were 
justified. So he made a last attempt to save himself. Zaharoff 
scraped together from among his papers all the proof he could 
find from the London period to support his innocence. It was 
not much. He had neither a written copy of his acquittal nor 
any document stating that he had been set free from prison, 
and had not escaped as was rumoured in Athens. He did find a 
few newspaper clippings of the trial. These he put in his pocket 
and went straight to Skuludis. . . . 

Skuludis, the story goes on, was going to have the young 
man thrown out, but he cried : 

, . . You, my dear Monsieur Skuludis, have also given 
credence to these infamous suspicions which pursue me 
everywhere. Good. Listen to the truth. I'll give you a full 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 71 

account, for you have given me so many proofs of your kind- 
ness. Listen to me and judge for yourself. 

Zaharoff at once got on with his story : 

Objectively, soberly, almost drily, like a police report, he 
stated his experiences in Constantinople and London. And as 
proof of what he said he drew the newspaper clippings from his 
pocket. Skuludis examined them and was finally convinced of 
his young friend's innocence. Zaharoff had fallen a victim to 
calumny. He must be supported against his slanderers and the 
matter cleared up wherever and whenever an opportunity 
offered. 

Here really everything is said. That Basil Zaharoff could 
not find among his papers the written copy of his acquittal 
was a piece of bad luck which anyone who has read the account 
of my investigations will not find surprising. The story of the 
newspaper clippings Skuludis told shortly before his death, 
when he was an old man, and we may be indulgent to him. 
What is clear is that we have here again the story in Zaharoff's 
"testimony," that testimony which we examined so closely. 
It is also clear that the friendship between him and Skuludis 
dated from that hour and that the latter took the trouble to 
save his prot£g£'s position in Athens. And finally it is clear 
that all his trouble was in vain. Zaharoff could not fight it 
out ; he struggled on for some weeks or months and then on a 
sudden he disappeared. 

Disappeared whither ? Zaharoff thought it important to tell 
us, with a communicativeness that is not very characteristic of 
him, that he went to England again and went into the textile 
business. 

All that is completely at variance with a story from French 
sources. Roger Menev^e writes that, at that period, Mr. 
Zaharoff was to be found where the great armament industries 
were. There are several stories of his working, on the one hand 



72 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

at Le Creusot, on the other in Krupp's. The Weekly Dispatch 
of October 8, 1922, says : 

After a period of training with Krupp's in Essen he went to 
Paris and London and began to interest himself in the arma- 
ments business. 

But this statement in the article in the Weekly Dispatch, which 
otherwise is quite uninformed, is not evidence, and one can 
ignore it. 

The third person who has tried to fill the gap is Mr. Hyman 
Barnett Zaharoff, the ever-present son. He alleges that at that 
time Basil Zaharoff was neither in Manchester earning a weekly 
wage of two pounds nor in Le Creusot or Essen learning how 
to make cannon. He did disappear from Athens — but he 
turned up in Wilkomir, which was then in the Russian govern- 
ment of Kovno. His plans for the west had miscarried, so he 
proposed to resume wedded life with Haje Elka Karolinski. 
But that lady would have nothing to do with a husband whom 
she had been told had been "in Siberia." She chased him off, 
and the marriage was dissolved, according to Jewish law, 
at Bielsk in the government of Grodno. The son of that 
marriage was then seven. 

Whom is one to believe ? Only this is certain, that Basil 
Zaharoff did disappear from Athens and remained disappeared 
for some time. For the events in Athens in the meantime 
I have as sources only the informants of Lewinsohn, and I 
must leave it to him to take responsibility for the trustworthi- 
ness of their information. The alleged facts are these. While 
Basil Zaharoff was in some unknown place there appeared 
in one of Athens "yellow" newspapers, the Mikra Ephemeris, 
the following item : 

"The convict Zacharias Basileios Zaharoff had made a 
sensational attempt to escape from the old prison in Athens 
called Garbola. But at the moment when he was trying to get 
away he was shot by a warder." Details were added. The 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 73 

convict had made elaborate preparations for his attempt. 
He had a little bag in which he had brought along a rifle 
in parts which could easily be assembled. To walk noiselessly 
he had pulled thick socks over his shoes. With the bundle 
under his arm he climbed up to the roof to escape that way. 
On the way he got out the rifle and assembled it ready to 
fire. His escape was already nearly accomplished when a warder 
in the courtyard saw a man on the roof and ordered him to stay 
where he was. The fugitive tried to shoot, but the warder was 
quicker, and laid the convict, Zacharias Basileios ZaharofT, low 
on the roof. 

Here is the sequel of this amazing adventure. The people 
who had always distrusted ZaharofT were triumphant. They 
had always known that the fellow was a criminal and now he 
had properly and finally gone to the devil. Even Skuludis 
was aghast and rather wounded in his self-esteem because he 
had let himself be well taken in by the youthful gaolbird. 
Everyone was ready to consider the case closed, but it opened 
again. As we may remember, Basil Zaharoff's sisters lived in 
Constantinople. They read the report in the newspapers 
about the death of their brother, and they went to Madame 
Sophie Negropontis, the daughter of a rich gentleman of the 
Phanar, and this Madame Negropontis telegraphed to Skuludis 
and asked him to say whether the news in the papers of the 
shooting of the young ZaharofT on the roof of the prison was 
true. 

Skuludis says that he was already rather doubtful about the 
truth of the tale. However, he took action now. He went 
to inquire of the chief of police in Athens, Staikos, and found 
that he knew nothing of the ZaharofT case. He had indeed 
had a report from the prison authorities that a convict had been 
shot while trying to escape and had, as was the custom, been 
buried next day. As the name of the prisoner was not given 
in the report and apparently could not be ascertained, Skuludis 
asked that the body be exhumed, and had his request granted. 



74 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

Skuludis personally attended the exhumation. He took with 
him a dentist, who had treated Zaharoff and . . . But let us 
turn again to Lewinsohn's book. He is too good a writer to 
have been capable of inventing the following details : 

"Even if there is nothing left of the body but the skeleton," 
declared the dentist, "I shall know whether the teeth are Mr. 
Zaharoff's, for I stopped them myself. I shall recognize them 
at a glance." 

The expedition began. Equipped with carbolic acid as a 
protection against any poisonous effects the corpse might have, 
the two men, Zaharoff's friend and his dentist, went to the 
cemetery where the dead Basileios was supposed to lie. The 
grave-digger appeared punctually, and it was an easy matter to 
clear away the few shovelfuls of earth which had been thrown 
on the criminal. Soon an unsavoury smell showed that they 
had struck the right spot. The few days that the dead man had 
lain beneath the shallow layer of earth had sufficed to bring 
on decomposition. One more dig with the shovel and the 
corpse appeared. 

Skuludis gazed at the head with its foxy red hair. That 
could not be Zaharoff, who was fair. Meanwhile the dentist had 
began his examination. He looked at the teeth for a moment 
and then gave a cry of triumph : "This is certainly not 
Zaharoff." 

There is no mistaking the Oriental elements in this unsavoury 
story. One thing is certain. The body exhumed was not 
Basil Zaharoff's. An investigation was set on foot and it was 
established that the dead man was a Canadian who had been 
caught by the harbour police of Piraeus in the act of com- 
mitting a daring robbery on board an Austrian steamer and 
had been put in prison. Actually he had tried to escape and had 
been shot while trying. What his name was remains unknown ; 
the name Zaharoff was first given him in the newspaper story. 
We shall not proceed far before we have to cast another 
glance at the Mikra Ephemeris story. Notice the construction 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 75 

of it. Zaharoff sits in a cell ; he breaks out ; and over the roof, 
too ; he tries to murder a policeman, but the policeman fires 
first and kills him. There cannot be any doubt that here — still 
unassimilated with the Casanova memoirs — is the original 
form of the legend of the escape from prison which we have 
had to study so closely. In a word, this newspaper report 
is only part of the crop of rumours that drove the young Basil 
Zaharoff from the city. There is a variant. In this case the 
prisoner does not shoot the policeman, but the policeman 
the prisoner. An accommodation to the needs of the moment 1 
Did the story of the actual shooting of an unknown convict 
have to be beaten ? Or was the desire of the writer in the 
paper father to the thought ? The editor of the Mikra Ephe- 
meris was a certain Stephanos Xenos, a journalist well known 
in Athens. He had earlier shown himself very unfriendly to 
Zaharoff and he had done his utmost to get him banned 
in Athenian society, and now, when his enemy had evacuated 
the battlefield, did he give him a parting kick by allowing a 
deception in his paper ? Why this enmity beyond the grave ? 
It is said to have been over a love-affair. The two men were 
rivals, and the young Zaharoff, as Lewinsohn puts it : 

. . . Had just those qualities which make a man popular with 
the women of the south. With all his reserve, he understood 
how to assume, when occasion demanded, the tone of a gallant 
and the bearing of a man of the world, and at the right moment, 
too, to act as the adventurous seducer. 

In short, a "lady-killer" — just as it should be. 

Basil Zaharoff was overtaken in Manchester by the news of 
his own death. That was a signal for him to get back again to 
Athens. As one risen from the dead he had another chance. 
Besides, he had been dirtily treated and he meant to have 
revenge. The story of his vengeance, which obviously comes 
from his own circle, reads like the pursuit of the Trojans by 
the avenging Achilles which, if I remember aright, led him 



j6 ZAHAROFF I THE ARMAMENTS KING 

round and round the walls of Troy. Similarly, Mr. Stephanos 
Xenos was assaulted in his own house by Zaharoff and hunted 
through all its rooms by the Homeric Zacharias Basileos. 
It can be imagined that, unlike the Iliad, the tale must end 
with the plea for mercy of the vanquished and magnanimous 
forgiveness. 

Let us stick to facts. The young man returned to Athens 
and tried his luck there once again. He soon perceived that 
he had overestimated his chance as a living corpse, at least 
as far as business was concerned. "Shop employee, then bar- 
man, then unemployed, and finally a guide" ; it appears that 
this once again was the sequence. 

But for the last time. Fate was standing across his path. 
It took the form of a Swedish captain who represented in 
Athens the English armament firm of Nordenfeldt. The Swede 
had done good business and was getting a better post than 
one in a tiny Balkan State. But he had not settled whom he 
would recommend to succeed him. In the Balkans and especi- 
ally in the business of selling munitions of war in the Balkans, 
not the first bright young man sent from London would 
succeed. 

Letters passed between Athens and London and one day 
the Swede was wired : "Ask Skuludis to recommend some- 
one." He went off with the telegram to Skuludis, who was then 
already a rich man but still at the beginning of his political 
career, and felt very honoured by this proof that his fame had 
reached London. Whether Skuludis, who tells us this, had 
read the telegram containing his name as carefully as he 
read the cuttings of Zaharoff's London trial we shall leave 
undiscussed. At any rate Skuludis was very willing to be help- 
ful. He thought of his protege Zaharoff, who certainly was no 
specialist in the armaments trade, but was a bright youth, a 
good speaker, keen, and undoubtedly not burdened with 
scruples, which as we shall see later only bring loss in this 
type of business — in a word, he was the man for the job. 



ON THE TRACK OF A YOUNG MAN FROM THE EAST 77 

Skuludis told the Swede of the darker patches in his protegees 
life, and urged him to make inquiries as to Zaharoff's past 
of the English, the Greek, and the Turkish authorities, and as 
to his suitability to become the agent of a munitions firm. 
The researches cannot have been very profound, for the very 
next day Zaharoff appeared at his patron's, burst into tears, 
threw himself — we are dealing with a country where such 
noble practices are customary — on his knees before his bene- 
factor, and covered his hands with kisses. Then he cried : 
"The captain has just told me that his firm has appointed me 
its agent for the whole of the Balkans." 

According to a more prosaic version the patron was not 
Skuludis but a person whom the Internationale Biographische 
Archiv calls "a relative of Zaharoff who was a hotel porter 
in Athens." This seems to refer to the porter Lampsas, who 
later was the founder of the Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens, 
and the relationship seems to have consisted in this, that 
Zaharoff owed him the rent of a room. There is no need for 
surprise, however, that numerous people are to be found 
who pretend to remember that they are related to "the richest 
man in the world," are his intimate friends, his schoolmates, 
his hotel creditors, and helped him along the first miles of 
his career. 

This story is also enlarged a little by Menevee whom I now 
quote : 

It is alleged that at the time several big European firms 
wanted to induce the Turkish Government to place relatively 
large orders for artillery, and that these firms left no way 
untried to attain their end. But to all appearances the Turk 
was in no hurry to make up his mind. At this crisis Zaharoff 
entered into relations with the English firm of Maxim Limited, 
and pledged himself to get the orders, thanks to his relations 
with the competent minister whose acquaintance he had made 
in certain circles and in gambling dens and had gone on 
cultivating. 



78 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

The mention of Maxim is a mistake of Menevee. The firm 
was the Nordenfeldt one. The amalgamation of it with Maxim's 
as we shall learn, happened eleven years later. 

"In certain circles and gambling-dens." That was the first 
time that Basil Zaharoff had been able to make his past serve 
his future. This is the natural caesura in his life. From now 
on he rises steadily. We have reached October 14, 1877. 



n 

DEAD MEN OVERTURE 

And now let us take a glance at fortune's favourite as he 
turns this corner in his life. The day is fine ; he wears no over- 
coat ; his suit a little too new, a little too much in the fashion, 
quite too Western, and yet thoroughly Balkan, makes a 
distinct impression in the streets of this Greek small town. 
The trousers are a little too yellow, the legs too beefy and 
muscular, a just too brightly coloured tie emerges from the 
fashionably cut waistcoat, and a stiff round hat sits at a little 
too rakish an angle on the blond hair which strikes so un-Balkan 
a note. And the silk handkerchief 1 If we could get a little 
nearer to him — but remember we are sixty years away — we 
should be able to smell the scent, just a little too potent : 
musk, possibly, from Paris, but in any case cheap. 

A dandy, then ? No, this man with the bright, hard, wary 
eyes concealed under half-closed lids is anything but a dandy ; 
one has only to notice that walk of his, the walk of a beast of 
prey, long-paced, springy, balanced for a leap to either side. 
A beast of prey dressed up like a man about town ; an adven- 
turer who has just fallen on his first success. And when he 
goes into the money-changer's booth and lays down the five- 
pound note which he has just got from London — that is his 
weekly salary — when he smooths it out, watch his hands 
and the long, slightly bent fingers, stained a little with nicotine, 
with long, carefully tended, just too carefully tended nails. 
The money-changer has no chance ; these are not the fingers 
of the sort of man to whom one can risk handing out false 
notes. What have these fingers done ? Hard manual work, 
the work of a porter, the work of a member of the Turkish 
Fire Brigade, military fatigues in Russia ? That is not what they 
betray, but rather a cunning in flicking notes about, a croupier 



8o ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

skill — "in certain circles and gambling-dens," a nimbleness, 
the nimbleness of a cynical "guide for foreigners." Goods 
are goods and business is business, and the goods may be the 
blood of men and the business not always outside the province 
of an antiquated criminal code. How old is he ? If he has 
done that rare thing, told the truth, he is eight and twenty. 
Born ? Not now in Mughla, in that pathetic little hill town in 
Anatolia. Not yet in the Phanar ; there are still too many 
witnesses living to risk that. For the next fifteen years we shall 
have to be content with a birthplace in the quarter of sharp 
practices, of the climbers, men with the lash of childhood 
poverty at their backs, the ambitious world-conquerors of 
Tatavla. Married ? No ; he has never been married, anywhere, 
at any time. Free and unencumbered, master of his destiny, 
the blond-haired, hard-eyed youth walks along the forward 
path with the springy pace of a beast of prey. 

It is no accident that the first step on that path brought him 
once again into connection with the land from which he 
sprang — Turkey. The first step on the spiral ladder of success 
has been climbed. The next to still higher nights awaits him, 
and it will not surprise one that Zacharias Basil Zaharoff, 
or Zohar, or Sahar, lives in the new sphere just as in the old ; 
it is the old life of adventure, but this time it is not led without 
plan, but with a definite end in view, and based on very 
definite material, to wit, cannon, machine-guns, shells, and 
with one object — power. Nor will it surprise one further that 
this Zacharias Basil Zaharoff will more than once retrace his 
steps and live his experiences over again, to rise steadily 
upwards flight by flight. It will be granted that Mr. Lampsas, 
or Mr. Skuludis, or whoever it may have been, made no mistake 
when he recommended the blond-haired youth to the Swedish 
captain. 

But this is just prophecy, looking into the future, and we 
are losing the thread of the tale. Let us get back to it. When 
Basil Zaharoff took up his new post, the political situation was 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE 8 1 

very much the same as it had been in 182 1, and it was the same 
as we shall find it in 19 14. There is difference only in details, 
dates, names of battlefields, and generals. But once again 
Russia is setting the Balkan peoples free, and by that she does 
not mean so much the freedom of the Balkan peoples as the 
realization of her own aspirations on the Straits, for only if 
Russia controls them will the Black Sea become a Russian 
sea. The Czar this time is Alexander, the battlefield Plevna, a 
Turkish fortress in the Bulgar land against whose walls the 
Russian invasion threatens to be broken, and the Balkan 
people which is battling now is not the Greek but the Serbian. 
Greece itself is remaining neutral, that is, it is waiting until 
others pull the chestnuts out of the fire. Meantime it is arming, 
but two months after ZaharofF takes up his new duties news 
comes of the fall of Plevna and Greece is ready to be on the 
spot if the Sick Man of the East is to be dismembered. But 
this simple twice-two arithmetic does not match the higher 
mathematics as these are conceived in the capitals of the Great 
States. This time it is Britain who comes to cool down the 
flame of Greek ambitions, and so once again the battle with the 
Turk goes unfought and the Greek victory goes ungained. 
On the chessboard of politics only the important pieces are 
left : Russia wants Constantinople. England's heart beats with 
new sympathy for the Turk, and by heartfelt sympathy she 
means not sympathy for the Turk but displeasure at the prospect 
of seeing Russia mistress of the Bosporus. In London they 
rattle the sabre — that is, six million pounds are voted "for 
measures of precaution which have become necessary as a 
result of the events of the war in the East." The War Minister 
in Vienna demands armament credits of sixty million guilders. 
The Russians are forthwith baffled and peace on earth is once 
more secured. It is called this time the Peace of Berlin, and is 
signed in July 1878. 

If I was writing a general history I should have to write 
about these happenings. But I am writing a history of arma- 



82 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

ments, and that either anticipates general history or comes 
after it ; nor does it follow that history's broad lines, but makes 
deviations to right or left of them. Nor am I writing a general 
history of armaments, but a Zaharoff armaments history ; 
that is to say, for the next decade or two the history of arma- 
ments in Eastern Europe, in the Balkans. And it will soon be 
clear to the reader why not every bright young man from 
London could be appointed to this post of "agent of the 
Nordenfeldt firm for the whole of the Balkans." Equally it 
will be clear why this post was such an important one. 

Not indeed because of the size of the business done. When 
Britain laid out six million pounds, or Austria sixty million 
guilders, that was big business. But it might be less profitable 
business. It was not just the fact that a Great Power could 
lower prices, but that it knew precisely what it wanted. In 
Eastern Europe things were different. The price was not so 
important, perhaps, as the question whether the goods would 
be paid for at once, or whether the purchaser would get 
deferred payment terms, perhaps, if possible, until after he 
had won his victory. If a State won, then the vanquished paid. 
If it was beaten, then one debt more or less made no difference. 
So it did not matter so much whether the latest, the most 
pleasing, the most effective weapons were delivered. All 
that was needed was that they should be newer and more 
effective than those of the neighbour. This elasticity of demand 
turned what was really "little business" into big business for 
the armaments firms. 

How did Basil Zaharoff conduct himself and guard himself 
in circumstances like these ? The details of his activity in Athens 
are in the main wrapped in obscurity, unless, indeed, we must 
put to his credit to some extent at least the incredibly rapid 
expansion of Greek military power after the signature of the 
Berlin Treaty of 1878. Two years after the Congress of Berlin 
the total budget of the Greek State amounted to twenty 
million francs, and of that sixteen million was allotted to the 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE 83 

army. That was, so to say, on a peace footing. In 1885, when a 
new war was threatened by Bulgaria, there was another 
mobilization, and a loan of a hundred million francs was 
contracted for the increase of the army and the navy. 

It is during this crisis that we find the first evidence of 
Zaharoff at work. He was no longer working at five pounds 
a week ; he had a commission as well. The head of his firm, 
Torsten Vilhelm Nordenfeldt, who had come to England at 
the age of twenty, and when he was forty had begun to make 
his first discoveries in the realm of war-weapons, had taken 
out a whole series of patents in rapid succession, among 
them one for a light, quickfiring gun which played a prominent 
part in his own career, and in that of Basil Zaharoff. It was 
a good gun, but just not quite good enough. The really sen- 
sational product of the firm, and its speciality, was something 
very different — the Nordenfeldt submarine. The idea of a 
submarine is old, very nearly as old as the art of navigation 
itself, and, since its birth was heralded, there had been many 
attempts at its practical construction. In the American Civil 
War of 1 861-1865 a sort of submarine had been at sea, and 
had promptly sunk. But the first war-submarine which really 
could go and manoeuvre under water was built by Torsten 
Vilhelm Nordenfeldt. He displayed it to a group of naval 
experts in the Sound between Denmark and Sweden ; he was 
congratulated, and his boat earned him the honour of being 
made a Royal Chamberlain of Sweden. But no one would 
buy it. The new weapon came on the scene most unseasonably 
as far as the great naval Powers were concerned, for it was 
a menace to their expensive, heavy, and so far unchallenged 
battleships. So far as they were concerned, Mr. Nordenfeldt 
and his ship could go to the devil, and Mr. Nordenfeldt was 
left high and dry with his honour and his expensive invention. 

It was at this crisis that the young Zaharoff intervened. 
The whole affair was well planned. If they had no success 
with the unsellable submarine with the Great Powers by the 



84 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

direct method, then the indirect method would have to be 
tried. So Basil Zaharoff discovered that he was a patriot. He 
was a Greek ; it was his patriotic duty to see to it that his native 
land had the preponderance in the ^Egean. He offered the 
submarine to the Greek fleet, and so patriotic was he that he 
let it have the boat on very easy terms. In Athens they were 
deeply affected and they bought. Whether there was ever any 
thought of conferring a Royal Greek chamberlainship on the 
young patriot, history does not tell us. 

But what it does tell us is that the young patriot went off 
to Constantinople with the ink hardly dry on the contract in 
his pocket. After all, on consideration, he had been born in 
Turkey, and it was only right and just that he should sell 
Turkey two submarines, too — that was only fair to Turkey. 
These two submarines in the Turkish fleet were soon dis- 
covered by Russia to be a threat and a provocation, and so 
there was no need of Basil Zaharoff's personal intervention 
to induce the Russian military attachd in London to get 
into touch with Torsten Vilhelm Nordenfeldt. The indirect 
method had succeeded. From now on the new weapon never 
ceased to appear in the naval budgets, and from Basil Zaharoff's 
first submarine to the submarines of the American Electric 
Boat Company, from which Mr. Zaharoff — according to the 
evidence collected by the United States Senate — even now, 
apparently in pious remembrance of his first transaction, still 
takes a commission on sales, there runs a long, straight line. 
And a very long line. I took a good deal of trouble to trace 
the history of this first submarine. My witness G, a Greek 
diplomatist who ought really to know it, declares that the 
submarine actually did once come into action against a much 
stronger Turkish cruiser and come off without damage. That 
was at the entrance to the Dardanelles. The cruiser came on. 
The submarine submerged, intending not to come up until 
the last moment. Unfortunately the pumps were not working 
properly. It took twenty minutes to get them going and the 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE 8 J 

submarine got to the surface — just in time to see the Turkish 
cruiser disappear over the horizon. I asked my witness Rear- 
Admiral X., who was then an officer in the Greek fleet, about 
this incident. Unfortunately he had forgotten it. 

In this first transaction of the young Zaharoff one can find 
all the characteristics of later ones — the noble exposition of 
the concept of patriotism, and also the principle of double 
dealing, the systematic arming of two opponents, a principle 
whose discovery may have made the young man think of 
himself as a genius, as one who had had a happy stroke of 
inspiration. Later we shall see that the happy stroke became 
a carefully elaborated system, a system that was Zaharoff's 
own, and a little later still see the happy stroke, become 
super-dimensional in its development, cost more blood 
than fifty former wars had cost taken together. 

But we have not reached that stage yet ; we are still in the 
days of the happy stroke, and to these days belongs the duel 
between Zaharoff and Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim. It lasted for 
two years, from 1886 to 1888 ; it was fought out in Spezia, 
London, and Vienna ; it ended with the reconciliation of the 
parties. And it is therefore particularly important for us 
because here we are in the exceptional position of having 
a source which Sir Basil has obviously omitted to colour or 
distort. He certainly never imagined that it would ever be used. 

Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim wrote his reminiscences. You will 
find no mention there of the name Zaharoff. But you will find 
mention made of "an agent of the Nordenfeldt firm," and 
of a "Mr. Zedzed," who is identical with that agent. These 
memoirs of Maxim are remarkable for a perfect self-assurance, 
the self-assurance of a clear conscience. One day he noted : 

On the next occasion of my going to Vienna I purchased a 
comic paper in the street. The illustration on the front page 
was a representation of myself firing a gun that was made in 
the shape of a coffin marking out F. Y. on the target with 
Death standing at my back and holding a crown over my head. 



86 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

The cartoon did not cause him to shudder. He found it 
"comic." And the indifference of this "merchant of sudden 
death" is not malevolence but just lack of imagination. 

Let us go back to the duel. We shall see it best if we look 
at it through Sir Hiram's eyes. Whence came he ? He is rather 
fond of anecdotage, and so it is not always easy to get at the 
facts from what he wrote. His family was French — Huguenot 
— and appears to have migrated to the United States in the 
eighteenth century. There on the Canadian border, in a town 
called Sangerville, Hiram was born. No dates are given in 
his autobiography, and these have to be deduced as a rule 
from the historical facts cited. He had technical gifts of a high 
order, wanted to be a sailor, made himself astronomical 
instruments. But his father apprenticed him to a coach-builder. 
Mice troubled him at his work. His first invention was a 
mouse trap, and if I were a technical authority I could no 
doubt prove that the mouse trap was the original draft of the 
Maxim gun. Then he lived a wanderer's life, on which his story 
is not always very credible. Definitely, he was an assistant 
barman, a weaver in a factory, a washer-up, and finally a boxer. 
You can see that the careers of future armament kings are 
somewhat disorderly, and that this Sir Hiram is a worthy 
counterpart of our Sir Basil. A manager said to him : "Your 
eyes are so big and stand out too much. Besides, did anyone 
ever know a boxer with such a big head ?" — a verdict which 
persuaded him to become an inventor. He constructed an 
automatic gas meter, a fire extinguisher, a steam pump for 
getting water to self-contained houses. Then in France there 
came the great electrical business. And then, when he had 
crossed over to England, he found it the fashion for any 
technical expert who really thought himself an expert to invent 
a gun of some sort. Hiram did consider himself a technical 
expert so he invented one — the Maxim machine-gun, the 
great hit of his life, the great hit of the armament industry as 
it was then. Six hundred shots a minute ! A humane, almost 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE 87 

a pacifist weapon when one remembered how quickly, how 
accurately, and how cleanly any war must now end almost as 
soon as it had begun. But the gun had now to be offered to 
interested Powers wherever the inventor could. Sir Hiram 
Maxim became his own commercial traveller, and so came 
into competition with another much younger and much less 
well-known traveller in the same line. 

It began in Spezia, probably in 1886. Maxim had learned 
that the Italian Navy had held a competition, and that the 
Nordenfeldt gun had won it. So off he went with his own 
gun to Spezia. As the Nordenfeldt model had been severely 
tested and its capabilities were fully known, all he had to do 
was to break its record. That was easy. His gun was lighter, 
shot more quickly and better, and did not need so large a 
crew. He was asked to fling his gun into the sea and leave it 
under water for three days. He did that, too, and three days 
later the gun worked without any cleaning just as well as it 
did before. Then he went back to London and left the model 
in Spezia. Some weeks later the Duke of Genoa said he would 
like to see it firing. As he had other business to do he could 
not go himself to Spezia. Maxim commandeered two men to 
go with his agent to Spezia. One was a brilliant shot with 
a fabulous reputation in the British fleet, the other was one 
of the best mechanics obtainable. He relied on these men to 
perform what they had to do without a hitch. 

Before they left London Maxim spoke to the agent about 
these English workers. When they left off work, he told him, 
they considered that equivalent to going on holiday, and to 
them that meant plenty of alcohol. They could only be relied 
on if they had no money in their pockets. So he ordered the 
agent to take over all their earnings, pay their expenses, but 
not let them touch a farthing in money until the tests were 
finished. He was to see that they lived in his own hotel and 
he was never to let them out of his sight for a moment. 

All went well until they got to Spezia. Then the workers 



88 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

produced a variety of reasons why they must have some money, 
but the agent remembered his orders and stuck to his guns. 

But none the less he found his men so drunk next morning 
that to make the tests was out of the question. Who was the 
kindly, generous unknown who, as the story goes, took the 
two thirsty souls for a tour round Spe2ia at night ? For reasons 
unknown Maxim passes quickly over this problem ; it may, 
of course, have been an accident. But from Maxim's own lips, 
and from those of an Austrian witness, Major-General K., 
we shall soon learn that it is a usual feature of such accidents 
to find a certain agent of the Nordenfeldt firm mixed up in 
them. But whatever happened, not even a great quantity of 
alcohol could get rid of the fact that the Maxim gun was 
superior. Both men got sober again, and they were kept for 
the next twenty-four hours under lock and key. The Duke had 
to wait a little. At last the tests were made and a big Italian 
order was duly booked by Hiram Maxim, and not by Mr. 
Zaharoff, who was so generous with alcohol. 

But Basil Zaharoff was not the man to give up the fight 
without more ado. He drew the lesson from his defeat. If 
Mr. Maxim, ex-boxer from Sangerville, U.S.A., came up again 
against a certain ex-fireman and ex-guide from the Near East, 
he would not get off so easily. Alcohol — that was too cheap 
a weapon. Others must be sought and were, as will be seen 
from Mr. Maxim's memoirs : 

Shortly after we learned that they were having a trial of 
machine-guns at Vienna and that the Nordenfeldt gun so far 
had beaten the field. I wrote a very strong letter to the autho- 
rities and asked to be allowed to take a gun to Austria 
and fire it. A few days later I received permission to do 
so and at once took a gun to the armoury in Vienna. It was 
arranged that we should take it to the Steinfeld and fire it 
at long range. 

Among the officials who came out from Vienna was H.R.H. 
the Archduke William, who was a field-marshal in the Austrian 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE 89 

service. He greeted me warmly and looked with great curiosity 
at the gun. I showed him the mechanism and explained it to 
him. I was then asked to fire at various ranges. 

Later H.R.H. approached and congratulated me. I asked if 
I had fired fast enough to suit him. His answer was : "Ah, 
indeed, only too fast ; it is the most dreadful instrument that 
I have ever seen or imagined. And now," he said, "I wish to 
tell you a little of my experience. Yesterday afternoon the agent 
of the other gun called at my office. He told me that the 
weather was very hot and advised me strongly not to go 
thirty miles into the country and expose myself on the hot 
Steinfeld for nothing. He said : 'The Maxim gun never works, 
and you will be greatly disappointed.' Now I come out here 
and see it fired without the least hitch, throwing every other 
completely into the shade. So you see how much we can 
believe what we hear." 

You can see Mr. Zaharoff had learned a little. He did not 
trouble now about humble mechanics ; he dealt with archdukes. 
That the Archduke would treat his warning so lightly as to 
go and risk sunstroke could not be foreseen. Mr. Nordenfeldt 
had no mean agent. If he had only had a better gun all would 
have been well. But, if Basil Zaharoff could not make his own 
gun better, what else was left but to make his competitor's 
weapon worse ? His next action, therefore, was once again a 
delicate business, so delicate that it nearly came within the 
purview of the police. And as Sir Hiram Maxim, who at the 
time he was writing his memoirs was sitting beside his Former 
competitor on the Board of Vickers, this time, too, has been 
very careful in his choice of words, we will get on better if 
we take another tack. 

It is here that the witness K. comes in. I was looking in 
Vienna for evidence of Sir Hiram's story, and after much 
trouble I found reports in the Austrian newspapers, but I 
could find nothing in the Austrian archives. Finally, I did 
find something, the cover of the document I sought. It had 



(JO ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

obviously been "requisitioned" in very high places, loaned 
out and never returned. Perhaps by a Government office, 
perhaps by the Minister of War himself, perhaps even by the 
Chancellery of the Emperor. I followed the matter up and 
came across, not, indeed, the missing document, but the 
witness K. K. is a very dignified old gentleman who was a 
major-general, and was so far directly connected with the 
introduction of the machine-gun into the Austrian Army 
that he was among the first officers to be instructed in its use. 
He talked warily, but honestly, and not unwillingly. He knew 
Basil Zaharoff's name only from the newspapers. He did not 
know that Sir Hiram Maxim had ever written memoirs. But 
he did remember a personal meeting with him. 

i. When the tests were being made ? 

he. There were several tests. He had a full beard and at the 
firing was wearing a morning coat and top hat. Then 
there was a scandal. But the investigation either petered 
out or was abruptly stopped. As you couldn't find the 
document it was probably quashed. 
I. An investigation ? Concerning whom ? 

he. That I can't tell you, for I don't remember the name. I 
only know it was Maxim's competitor. Earlier he had 
done something against Maxim in France or Italy, 
thrown his model into the sea or something like that. 
And he tried to do the same sort of thing in Vienna, or 
so it is said. An act of sabotage. The story is that he 
bribed the workers in the Maxim factory in England 
to send out a gun that wouldn't fire properly. Later 
there was a story that some young Austrian officers 
were mixed up in the affair. But that was only gossip. 
They were inexperienced and they let themselves be 
gulled by this competitor into bringing unsuitable 
cartridges for the gun or something like that, but I can't 
remember now. It was just a gaffe of the youngsters, 
that was all. That is why probably the whole business 
was hushed up. 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE 9 1 

i. But the tests went off splendidly. 
he. Does Maxim say so in the book ? I expect he wanted to 
keep some things dark. Only the very last test went 

off all right. Before that Oh, but he must know 

better than that. Or am I mixing all this up with 
something else ? Just at that time they were testing 
new howitzers. Perhaps it was there . . . 

i. Could you tell me . . . ? 
he. No. Perhaps I'm doing someone an injustice. I don't want 
to be unfair to anyone, sir, I am an old man. 

What does Sir Hiram say of this occasion regarding which 
the old gentleman spoke so cautiously ? 

All the officers were well pleased with the gun, but they 
wanted one using their own cartridges, which I agreed to make. 
On my return to England I made the gun and brought it to 
Vienna. . . . When I had fired a few hundred rounds tne gun 
worked very irregularly and finally stopped. On examining it 
1 found that one of the sideplates that carry the mechanism 
had apparently been elongated by the force of the explosion, 
the right-hand sideplate being considerably longer than the left. 
I took the gun apart and found, very much to my surprise and 
disgust, that the greater part of the dovetail that secured the 
sideplate to the barrel had been milled off and a loose piece 
riveted on, the whole being blackened over to deceive me. I 
had to take my gun back to England with me as luggage. 

This vexatious trick was the fault of my English foreman. 
He admitted that he had riveted this piece on. He said the 
weather was so warm and drowsy that the man at the milling- 
machine, after setting the machine going, had gone to sleep in 
his chair. When he woke up, the milling cutter had gone 
through the dovetail and he had riveted a piece on. This little 
ten-minute nap of my sleepy workman was the cause of one 
of the greatest misfortunes of my life. 

There can be no doubt that this is the same story which our 
scrupulous witness K. knew. But how comes it that the act of 
sabotage which K. could remember has become transformed 



92 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

in Maxim's story into a ten-minute nap, while the officers are 
exonerated, and that this time no part in the play is assigned to 
the agent of the Nordenfeldt firm ? Did the old major-general 
really mix up two incidents? Or did Sir Hiram feel that he ought 
to whitewash his colleague on the Board, and was himself 
in favour of suppressing the whole thing? It is an open question. 
But there is one thing ; if Basil Zaharoff here too took a hand 
in the game he went to work cleverly this time. He won the 
round. But still there was no getting rid of the fact that the 
Maxim gun was the better, and Mr. Maxim remained a danger- 
ous competitor. And Zaharoff would not have been Zaharoff if 
he had not remained on the stage to see how things developed. 
He must have stayed in Vienna, for after Mr. Maxim had again 
made a gun in England. . . . But let us quote Maxim : 

Again I went to Vienna. The gun was again tried at the 
Arsenal, and the agent of the other gun was on hand like a 
sore finger — not on the grounds, however, but looking through 
the gate with a lot of newspaper reporters. Many high officials 
came to see the gun, including the Emperor himself, and 
everyone was delighted. When the trials were over the agent 
of the other gun sought an interview with the leading officers. 
He spoke all languages and was a very plausible talker. One 
of the officers reported the conversation to me in English in 
about these words : 

"Do you know who Maxim is ? I will tell you, he is a Yankee 
and probably the cleverest mechanician on the earth to-day. By 
trade he is a philosophical instrument-maker. He is the only 
person in the world who can make one of these guns and make 
it work. Everything has to be of the utmost accuracy — one- 
hundredth part of a millimetre here or there and it will not 
work — all the springs have to be of an exact tension. Suppose 
now that you want a quantity of these guns, where are you 
going to get them, as there is only one man in the world who 
can make them ? Maxim goes into the shop and actually makes 
these guns with his own hands, and of course the supply is 
limited. Then again, even if you could get them, do you expect 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE 93 

that you could get an army of Boston philosophical instrument- 
makers to work them?" 

You see, Mr. Zaharoff was on the job. And the ex-boxer 
from the U.S.A. had good reason not to feel too comfortable 
in this contest with the ex-fireman from Constantinople. He 
might have been able to assure that officer who spoke English 
that his goods were the goods and that the agent of the Norden- 
feldt firm was a dirty liar. But the ex-boxer was "groggy," 
and he took the count next morning when he opened the 
newspapers. It is Mr. Maxim's way to tell of his defeats more 
laconically than he tells of his victories. Thus he drily notes : 

At the time that these last tests were taking place the news- 
papermen looking through the gate asked the agent what gun 
was being tested and he said : "The Nordenfeldt, it has beaten 
all the others." And this was printed in the Vienna papers, 
quoted in others, and circulated all over the world. 

Actually the daily papers in Vienna for May 8, 1888, do speak 
of this wonderful "Nordenfeldt" machine-gun. 

That is all. Then Sir Hiram goes on to tell of the comic 
paper and of Death who in such an amusing manner stood 
behind him and held a crown over his head. 

Still more laconically does Sir Hiram tell the sequel. It seems 
that he went to see this dirty liar of an ex-fireman in the room 
in the latter's hotel — obviously to indicate to him his contempt 
of these immoral methods of securing business. Their conver- 
sation was held behind closed doors. Its result may be found 
in a subordinate clause barely half a line long in Sir Hiram's 
memoirs. There is a little more detail in the London Register 
of Companies for 1888. The Nordenfeldt Guns and Ammunition 
Co., Ltd., and the Maxim Gun Co. disappeared, and in their 
place there arose a new firm called the "Maxim Nordenfeldt 
Guns and Ammunition Company." Mr. Maxim had the better 
gun, but on the side of the Nordenfeldt firm the bigger bat- 
talions fought — the ex-guide from Tatavla. And in the whole 



94 ZAHAROFF ! THE ARMAMENTS KING 

history of the world there is no record of anyone ever having 
got the better of a guide from Tatavla. 

We must not, however, take leave of the wary, though 
anecdote-loving Sir Hiram without turning over a few more 
leaves of his book. When he comes to the point where the agent 
of the Nordenfeldt firm was beginning to pull at the same rope 
with him, the latter is almost named. He appears as "Mr. 
Zedzed," and is described as "my friend." But what Sir Hiram 
has to tell of this friend is for our purposes not very fruitful. 
More fruitful because they are so characteristic of this cheery 
arming of friend and foe alike are some others of Maxim's 
anecdotes. There is his story of how every high personage who 
visited London received from the armament makers a graceful 
gift of welcome in the shape of a specimen of the latest model, 
a generosity which as a rule was extremely profitable. And it 
could be restrained in cases where the prospect of profitable 
repayment was somewhat slight. Such was the case of the Shah 
of Persia who was little able and still more unwilling to do any 
repaying. The quick firing of the Maxim gun was a source 
of great pleasure to His Majesty, and he delicately hinted at 
the possibility of getting a specimen to try. But he was told 
coldly that the guns were the property of the firm and that an 
individual could not dispose of them ; that required a Board 
meeting. The Chinese Prince Li Hung Chang was another 
person much interested. But when he was told that the cost of 
charging the gun ran into three figures, the wise man from the 
East replied : "That gun shoots too quickly for China." 
That was the voice of reason, and it could be heard even in 
Europe. Thus the King of Denmark, when the same figure 
was mentioned to him, refused to buy with the words : "That 
sort of gun would bankrupt my little kingdom in two hours." 
But I have sought in vain in Sir Hiram's memoirs for a repre- 
sentative of a Great Power who used such language. And so 
the invention was a terrific success. Since then many million 
men owe their deaths to it. 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE 95 

Here the story begins of the conquest of Russia by a muni- 
tions agent. It starts in 1888 and ends in August 1914 ; that is, 
if not with the complete conquest of Russia, at least with 
a world war. But that is to anticipate. For the moment the 
biographer has just to state the fact that, in the year 1888, 
Basil Zaharoff went to Russia, and that this first Russian 
period of his is important for us because that was the time 
when he suddenly became communicative. He is now eleven 
years older than when we last saw him, but so far as we can 
judge he had not in these years lost that masculine attractive- 
ness of which we hear so much, and it is to this, no doubt, 
that we may ascribe the extreme rapidity with which he rose 
in St. Petersburg. 

The story begins with a Tatavla piece, with a transaction 
worthy of a "foreigners' guide." There lived in St. Petersburg 
the Grand Duke S., to whom it was very difficult to get access. 
He was the head of the Russian artillery, and whoever got his 
ear got orders. He had a life apart from the artillery, a private 
life — in other words, the famous dancer K. Some four weeks 
later, St. Petersburg society learned that the dancer K. had a 
new favourite, a Greco-English or an Anglo-Greek gentleman 
who spoke Russian perfectly, and was a fine-looking man. 
A week later the fine-looking man was presented to the indul- 
gent, smiling Grand Duke. And a week later the first Russian 
order went to London. 

There is no documentary evidence of this story. But here 
we must not be too insistent for the period with which we 
are now dealing. What is presented to us as documentation is 
a clever smoke screen, and Mr. ZaharofPs effort to create a 
smoke screen is the most comprehensive effort of the kind 
which ever was undertaken by a man to conceal his past. 
He works on the snowball system. When anyone began to 
touch on some dark places in his past, he made no attempt 
to meet the situation with denials, but served up "in strict 
confidence" to a deluded, eager circle of friends the stories 



96 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

of an escape from prison and a murder of a policeman, which 
had now been worked up with all the art of Casanova himself. 
Somewhere in the preceding years he must have got hold 
of the Venetian's memoirs. That set the snowball a-rolling. 
Rumours multiplied in the most fantastic manner. Zaharoff 
smiled and confirmed them, confirmed them and smiled. 
What an interesting fellow this Mr. Zedzed was, what a lady- 
killer, what a Casanova ! He had nothing to do but to help 
on the process with a cautious hand, and in a few months 
had spread around him that smoke screen which now confronts 
us, and which we are trying to penetrate. Once again he had 
brought off a coup. He has, perhaps, the worst reputation that 
ever man had. The words of our trusty D., the ex-Premier, 
echo in our ears : "Monsieur Zaharoff prefers to be mentioned 
as a mauvais sujet rather than not be mentioned at all." We see 
now how true that was — and how false. 

Let us see how far the rumours had gone. What did they 
tell of, how did they go ? The escape and murder complex, 
plus its embellishments, we have already discussed. As far as 
the lady-killer story is concerned there seems to be evidence 
of a sort only for the story that it was the dancer K. who served 
as bridge to the Grand Duke. Other stories tell of affairs 
with officers' wives, of an affair with a young aristocrat who 
drowned herself for his sake, affairs in less mentionable places 
with which we shall not deal, nor would, even if there was proof 
of them. In St. Petersburg he celebrated his fortieth birthday, 
and that is one of the many dangerous ages in a man's life. 
Thus there remain only the tales which are connected with his 
business activity. They run in this fashion : 

The scene of action is a state which must not be mentioned. 
Let us say it was in the Balkans. Up to this time it had turned 
deaf ears to the blandishments of the Maxim-Nordenfeldt 
firm. Mr. Zedzed was busy in St. Petersburg, but he had to 
look after business down there, and so went to the State in 
question for a day or two. It was a Monday evening ; he was 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE 97 

in a hurry ; he went at once to the Ministry, asked to be received 
by the Minister, and was conducted to the presence. Then came 
the following dialogue : 

the minister. I have only seen you to tell you that you need 

not trouble yourself further. Your offers don't in the 

least interest me. 
zaharoff. You'll think it over again, won't you. I shall come 

again to-morrow, that is on Thursday. 
the minister. There isn't the slightest use in your coming. 

Besides, to-morrow isn't Thursday ; it's Tuesday. 
zaharoff. To-morrow is Thursday. 
the minister. I tell you, it's Tuesday. 
zaharoff. Let's have a bet on it, Your Excellency, I'll bet you 

a hundred thousand francs that to-morrow's Thursday. 

We have only to record that the Minister won the bet. From 
that moment that State was one of the loyalest customers of 
the Maxim-Nordenfeldt Guns and Ammunition Company. 

Here is another of these stories, although it is not quite 
certain whether it is an actual incident in Zaharoff's life, or 
whether it should, as one authority alleges, be credited to one 
of his competitors, possibly the agent of the Skoda works. 
In the race for orders he had got over several of the hurdles. 
The next, and that was a really serious obstacle, was a major 
who was entirely recalcitrant. Zaharoff put a thousand-rouble 
note in his cigarette-box, offered the major a cigarette while 
they were talking, and turned away as he helped himself. 
Then he himself took a cigarette, saw that the note had vanished, 
felt that he had won his case, and proceeded to business. But 
the major was not to be shaken. Zaharoff was rather dis- 
concerted. Suddenly the major said casually : "By the way, 
could I have another cigarette ?" 

After surmounting this obstacle, Zaharoff found himself 
confronted by the all-powerful General K.; his is a name known 
to history. And now he could make no progress at all. Fourteen 
days went by ; three weeks. Finally, Zaharoff managed to get 



98 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

invited to tea by Madame K. Alone. He tried to speak of 
business, but it was no use. Then he determined to go all out 
for victory. He discussed the furniture, stopped at a glass 
chandelier, and cried out, "What a masterpiece I" Actually it 
was a horror, pretentious, and completely valueless. The lady 
tried to damp down his enthusiasm, but Zaharoff insisted : 
"No, no, I am an authority on chandeliers, I collect them." 
He climbed up on a chair ; he examined it with the true con- 
noisseur's air. Then he said : "May I take a liberty, gracious 
lady ? What will you take to let me have this piece for my 
collection ? I think it is worth a hundred thousand roubles." 
There was a long silence, and then the lady said : "I shall ask 
my husband if he will let the chandelier go." The very next 
day he was asked to tea again. Again alone. The lady said to 
him : "We're very fond of that chandelier, but my husband 
has consented to part with it for a hundred and fifty thousand 
roubles." 

The chandelier was taken down and sent to London. It was 
an excellent bargain. Where it actually landed after it left the 
house of General K. is not reported. 

Yet another story. This time the scene is laid in another 
State which must not be named. A new political party had 
just got into power, and a new appointment had just been 
made to one of the high posts in the Admiralty. 

Next day the agent of the Maxim-Nordenfeldt firm called on 
the new occupant, a man generally feared because of a certain 
military brusqueness. "Your Excellency," said the agent, 
"we had the great pleasure of sending a lovely little steam 
yacht to Your Excellency's predecessor. I expect that you, too, 
Your Excellency, would be interested in just such a lovely 
little yacht." 

the admiral. Stop. Bribery of that sort was perhaps possible 
under the late Government. But it has got to stop now. 
Be damned thankful I don't have you arrested. Get out 
of this. Presents are not taken here. 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE 99 

zaharoff (coldly). I don't like your tone, Your Excellency. 
There is no question of a present. You will have to pay 
for the yacht. Its price is ten pounds sterling. 

the admiral (much more mildly). Ah, pay for it. Now that's 
quite another matter, Mr. Zaharoff. Send it along, 
please. And send two. My son also has a weakness for 
yachting. 

What is the position with regard to the possibility of docu- 
menting stories of this sort ? It is characteristic that practically 
the same tale is related of General Goering and the agent 
of a motor-car company. And to-morrow, perhaps, they will 
become part of yet a third legendary person's history. The 
fact that these stories are not definitely connected with him 
shows how extremely successful Zaharoff was in the creaton 
of his cloud screen. Of this period of his life we know practi- 
cally nothing certain. Nor was this impenetrable sojourn in 
Russia a long one. It lasted only until 1890, and in 1890 we 
find another cjesura. 

A cjesura, after which the mystery is still there, but the 
method of mystification has changed. The tactic is different. 
A sudden transformation took place in the life of this forty- 
year-old English, Russian, and Turk. This juggler with his 
own past, who was at home at the Czar's Court, and in all 
the hotels of Eastern Europe, transforms himself at a stroke. 
Enough has been heard and told of this past. Draw a line 
under it. A new life is beginning. 

The best way to begin a new life is to get a new place to 
live in. Or get a place of one's own to live in, if so far one never 
has had a place. And so it came to pass that for the first time 
che name of a foreigner's guide from Tatavla was received 
into the fashionable reference books. The Tout Paris of 1890 
calls this foreign gentleman "Zaharoff." What is he ? : "the 
possessor of several foreign orders." An unusually precise 
description of Monsieur Zaharoff's activities in the world. 



IOO ZAHAROFF ! THE ARMAMENTS KING 

And we find here, too, his first address — 54 Rue de la Bien- 
faisance, Paris. 

Besides — foreigners' guide from Tatavla ? Now that 
smacked too strongly of a rather strong-smelling past which 
did not suit a gentleman who had crashed into Tout Paris. So 
once again draw a line under it. It was not possible to make it 
credible that he was born in London or in Paris, but who could 
prove the contrary if he disclosed the fact that his birthplace 
was somewhere down there, in the East, in the gaunt Ana- 
tolian hills, in a little town from whose honourable poverty 
and tidy penury a successful self-made man by his own 
fierce effort had risen, via foreign orders, to 54 Rue de la Bien- 
faisance, Paris. And not only could no one prove the contrary, 
but he could prove the fact. There is a story of an old wine 
merchant who gathered his sons round his death-bed and 
revealed to them the last wisdom, the deepest secret of his 
life : "You can make wine out of grapes, too." This time 
Basil ZaharofF made wine out of grapes, and procured from 
the really existing town of Mughla a real birth certificate. 
By that time he had been away from Mughla at least thirty 
years. 

The possession of an apartment of his own and a birth- 
certificate of his own was a great gain in a new life. But it was 
far from being everything. First of all, an end had to be put 
definitely to this vagabond existence, the life of an agent highly 
paid indeed, but none the less one who might without more 
ado be flung into the street. What was the position now of 
the Maxim Nordenfeldt Guns and Ammunition Company ? 
Maxim was the head of the firm, the embodiment of it ; his 
friend, "Mr. Zedzed," was its commercial traveller. Was there 
any need really in this combination of a Swedish engineer ? 
Mr. Torsten Vilhelm Nordenfeldt saw himself slowly but 
implacably driven to the wall. To-morrow he would be got 
rid of as a nuisance. And the day after he will sell out his shares 
in the arm — and to Mr. Basil ZaharofF. It was not very long 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE IOI 

ago since this very Basil Zaharoff had burst into tears because 
this man whom he now squeezed out of his own factory had 
agreed to pay him five pounds a week. The name of the firm 
was not altered, but, if it had been altered, then it would have 
been called Zaharoff-Maxim, and not vice versa. You can see 
how everywhere in the life of our adventurer there are altera- 
tions, rearrangements, consolidations. 

Why, however, this sudden change in life ? What really 
happened ? Did it all happen simply because he was now forty 
and the first grey hairs were visible on his temples. Not at all ; 
the Zaharoffs are not sentimentalists. Why, then ? A very 
clever English merchant, the trusty P., said when I asked that 
question : "The age of forty isn't a turning-point in the life 
of a Levantine, but the amassing of the first hundred thousand 
pounds is. Up to that time much could be permitted, but once 
he had a hundred thousand in the bank then things were 
different. That made him a pillar of the State." 

Be that as it may, this time the causes are to be sought 
elsewhere. We have to go back to the autumn of 1889. The 
Maxim Nordenfeldt Guns and Ammunition Company had 
received a big order from Spain, but after the letter containing 
the order had been received another followed hard on its 
heels cancelling it. But had not the firm an agent living in 
St. Petersburg who could regulate such trifling mishaps with 
absurd ease ? Mr. Zaharoff by way of variety had to go south 
again. 

In a railway carriage he met a young married woman whose 
maiden name rang like a peal of bells — Maria del Pilar Antonia 
Angela Patrocinio Simona de Muguiro y Beruete, and who 
had just a very short time ago got married to a Duke of 
Marchena ; "par la suite," as the French source says a little 
mysteriously, she had become the Duchess of Villafranca 
de los Caballeros. Her husband was of Bourbon stock and 
a cousin of Alfonso xn. This lady who was so rich in names 
chanced to meet our Basil Zaharoff on a railway journey. 

D* 



102 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

One account tells that she was on her honeymoon when 
she met this gentleman who was at the moment so extremely 
interested in the affairs of Spain, and another adds that she 
literally fell into his arms while flying from her sleeping-car 
and from the brutality of her just-wedded husband. But 
although it is possible that the meeting of the munitions agent 
journeying to Spain and the Spanish duchess and kinswoman 
of the Spanish king was not quite so accidental on his part, 
but was engineered with the intention of repeating with slight 
variation, but still more effectively, the coup of St. Petersburg, 
the masterstroke of the dancer and the Grand Duke, it is also 
certain that he soon forgot this aspect of it. Think of the situa- 
tion. Think of that dizzy, rapid rise, and think what it meant 
to our foreigners' guide, fireman, possibly Russian private, 
and certainly embezzler of boxes of gum and sacks of gallnuts, 
to this man with the whip of childhood poverty at his back, 
to meet this princess with the three and thirty names 1 Now 
for the first time he had really made good in his own eyes, not 
by those early deeds of Odyssean cunning, not by the hundred 
thousand pounds to which sum his bank balance may have 
swollen. The fact that the Maxim Nordenfeldt firm managed 
to get the cancelled order restored, and that to that first 
order many other orders were to follow, certainly played no 
greater part in the rise and growth of passion between this 
man and this woman than all the many other mutual help- 
fulnesses arising so naturally out of community of fate. The 
lady was in great distress. The brutality of her husband 
indicated a tendency in him to madness, which shortly after 
asserted itself so violently that he disappeared into a lunatic 
asylum. For a devout Catholic there could of course be no 
question of a divorce, still in the opinion of the doctors it 
would not be long before the wretched husband departed 
this life. 

Meantime the lady's gentle influence gradually changed 
the life of her companion. Very quietly he got ready a docu- 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE I03 

ment, which proved to be the precursor of all the documents 
provided for his marriage ; he strengthened his business 
position in London, and saw to it that he got into the best 
Parisian society. As we have seen him do before, he drew a 
line under his past. Only a woman's influence could change a 
man thus. It is quite certain that from that day on he did not 
wear gaudy ties. 

He wore gaudy ties so seldom now, he became all at once so 
taciturn, he so resolutely made silence the rule of his life 
that for the years that follow we do now really enter a dark 
period. Very little comes forth into the light of day. During 
the next ten years he seems to have intentionally dropped out 
of business in Russia. There were now a good few places on 
the earth which shared in his past, and under that past a line 
was drawn. In any case there were other places where there 
was money for a merchant of sudden death. There was Spain ; 
but that we have already related. According to the entry 
in the Internationale Biographische Archiv of Berlin the orders 
Zaharoff got there amounted to thirty million pounds sterling 
two months after his meeting with the Duchess of Villafranca. 
And now there were the Spanish-Portuguese republics in South 
America to visit. Here it was the Balkans all over again. Bolivia, 
Paraguay, Argentina, Chile. To find out when, where, and how 
Basil Zaharoff intervened in that chaos of predatory wars, 
insurrections, and revolutions we shall have to appeal once 
again to the testimony of witnesses. Here is some : Ro. says : 

He went to South America because at that time there was a 
war on. One between Argentina and Chile. These wars always 
at first sight look as if they had some national background. 
Actually they are wars between Britain and the United States, 
wars for oil, for quebracho, for nitrates. Whenever the firms 
in New York or London came to some agreement, then 
suddenly there was peace and the national flags were rolled up 
and put away. The war at that time was one of the nitrate wars. 



104 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

Against all the rules of the game Zaharoff butted in. He went 
across and induced Argentina and Chile to make peace. That 
was his debut as peacemaker. Up to that time neither State had 
bought munitions from him. Now they both did. The peace 
lasted five months, that is, just long enough for Zaharoff to 
deliver his goods. Then Argentina and Chile had to start 
fighting again. It was in any case just a little war ; only sixteen 
thousand dead. 

Testimony of de S., who was in the consular service of 
the Republic of Paraguay : 

Your witness is completely ignorant. At that time there 
wasn't any war between Argentina and Chile. Sir Basil 
ZaharofF's coup of the five months' peace was later, in 1902, 
and the peace was that between Panama and Colombia at the 
time when Panama revolted from Colombia and declared 
herself independent. But at the date in question, 1894, when, 
according to your witness, there ought to have been a war 
between Argentina and Chile, what actually was on was the 
Chaco war between Bolivia and Paraguay. Your witness has 
probably confused things. It is true that for a couple of months 
the Bolivians stopped hostilities to give Zaharoff time to 
equip them and then started the war again. But he never 
delivered any goods to us. The truth is simply that there was 
peace for a couple of months because the Bolivians did not 
attack and naturally we didn't attack either. As far as we were 
concerned we always held by peace in the Chaco. We didn't 
even let Basil Zaharoff enter the country. In any case later on 
he was arrested in Bolivia because an agent of a rival English 
firm denounced him. They found documents on him from 
which it was ascertained that he had bribed every superior 
officer in Bolivia to make certain that they would buy not from 
this Englishman but from him. And that notwithstanding the 
fact that he charged prices 50 per cent, higher than other 
English firms. He was put in gaol in La Paz, but he got out 
later and that by means of a rope which he made out of his 
bedding [here follows the story of the escape from the 
Casanova memoirs]. 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE IOJ 

Ro. once again. 

What de S. says to you is characteristically South American. 
Sheer confusion. For instance, the revolt of Panama was a 
mere comic-opera revolution. The United States wanted to 
construct the Panama Canal. Columbia wouldn't give the con- 
cession and so the United States staged the revolt of the 
Province of Panama in order to come to an arrangement with 
the new State on the concession. So there was no cessation 
and no resumption of hostilities at Zaharoff's behest, because 
there weren't any hostilities at all. Enough of Panama. On 
the other hand, I admit that I may have confused the war 
between Argentina and Chile and the eternal Chaco war be- 
tween Bolivia and Paraguay. In any case, at that time Zaharoff 
had his fingers in every South American pie. There is even a 
story of his having been President — under another name — of a 
South American republic. In any case don't believe de S. when 
he tells you that Paraguay was an innocent lamb, which was 
always on the defensive and had no dealings with Zaharoff. 
The contrary is the truth — ask a Bolivian I And what de S. tells 
you of the Zaharoff incident in Bolivia is completely distorted. 
What actually happened was that Zaharoff really was denounced 
for bribing high military officials and selling at excessive prices, 
but it was not by the agent of a rival English firm, but by a 
London journalist called Thomas or something like that. 
Zaharoff was arrested and secret military documents were 
found on him. But he didn't land in prison again, as de S. 
alleges. There was a successful and energetic intervention, and 
the indignation was general against this journalist who had 
been intriguing against Zaharoff in several States. He actually 
went after Zaharoff to Japan to stir up feeling against him 
there. The great Mitsui affair there was the result. It was the 
same journalist who brought down Admiral Fuji. The real 
motives for this Thomas's campaign of hate against Zaharoff, 
I don't know. Perhaps there was a woman in the case. But the 
most important thing is this, that the whole business didn't, 
as Mr. de S. alleges, happen in La Paz. It was on the occasion 
of the great officers' revolt in Chile. That is to say, Chile, not 
Bolivia, was the scene. 



106 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

I intentionally omitted to convey this part of Ro.'s testimony 
to Mr. de S. I was rather afraid of his retort. But it is possible 
to test to some degree the statements made in these contra- 
dictory reports. 

First : The Revolt of Panama from Colombia was arranged 
by a younger follower of Ferdinand de Lesseps, a one-legged 
war veteran called Bunau-Varilla, who sold a scheme for a 
Panama Canal to the United States, and was commissioned by 
that country to make a revolution. He himself, who was 
promptly appointed "ambassador" of Panama so that he could 
go to Washington to obtain the recognition of the new 
republic and dispose of the concession, has stated : "I am one 
of the few men to found a State without shedding a drop of 
blood." As far as the Colombia conflict is concerned, therefore, 
the details given by de S. are incorrect. (Still, it is surprising 
that the American Davenport tells us that in 1906 Zaharoff 
as a French agent intervened with President Roosevelt in 
connection with the Panama business.) 

Second : The story of how Zaharoff secured a peace for five 
months so that he could arm the belligerents is given in several 
other sources which are clearly independent of each other, 
but are none the less purely journalistic. One of them definitely 
places the scene of action in Argentina and Chile ; others 
only speak of "two South American States." Therefrom it 
seems that we can state that Basil Zaharoff actually did bring 
off this little coup with its "only sixteen thousand dead," but 
that we cannot state definitely where it occurred. That must 
remain as obscure as 

Third : The place of the bribery incident which de S. puts 
in Bolivia and Ro. in Chile. But although documents are lacking 
here too, we should like to examine a little more closely this 
incident which is very different from the earlier coups of a 
gambler with a sense of humour. An individual who in one 
account is called the agent of a rival firm and in the other is 
an English journalist, and according to Ro. is called "Thomas 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE 107 

or something like that," denounced Zaharoff to a Government 
— what Government we do not know with certainty — for 
bribing high military officials and selling goods at excessive 
prices. Zaharoff was arrested, but somebody intervened and 
he was set free. We need not stop to discuss the story of yet 
another escape from prison with the aid of the famous rope. 

Fourth : But who is this "Mr. Thomas" ? Ro. says that he 
followed Zaharoff to Japan — and thereby we learn of a stay 
(not mentioned elsewhere) by Basil Zaharoff in the Far East— 
and that the result later was "the great Mitsui affair. He was 
the same journalist as caused the fall of Admiral Fuji." These 
details are too precise to let us simply wave them aside without 
any further investigation. Perhaps we can get at the truth 
from this "Mitsui affair" which has been mentioned. Let 
us have a look at it anyway ; we shall follow one of the best 
Japanese sources, to wit, the Japan Weekly Chronicle of June 
and July 1914. 

Japan was arming, the construction of a new cruiser had 
been put up to tender, and among the tenders were two 
between which the choice was very narrow. One was sent 
in by the English firm of Armstrong, the other by the English 
firm of Vickers. The latter firm at that time (1910) was under 
the direction of Basil Zaharoff ; we shall see later how he got 
there. The firm was in bitter secret competition with Arm- 
strong despite the fact that at that time the rivals had to stand 
shoulder to shoulder, bank balance to bank balance, in a whole 
series of transactions. Later this "shoulder to shoulder" busi- 
ness ended in a general debacle and to an amalgamation between 
the old rivals. But there was still much water to flow under 
the bridge before that happened ; the whole big business of 
a World War lay between. 

But at that time (1910) they were still competitors in Tokio, 
and the Japanese Rear-Admiral Fuji was sent to England with 
the commission to examine on the spot the bill of costs and 
the specifications of the two firms. He arrived in England in 



108 ZAHAROFF '. THE ARMAMENTS KING 

March 1910 and in August he sent in his report to the Naval 
Stores Department in Tokio : the tender of Vickers is not only 
more definite but it is cheaper. In November the Japanese 
Government accepted Vickers' tender. Later it came out 
that there was a certain director of Vickers who was on very 
friendly terms with Rear-Admiral Fuji. He asked him to use 
his good offices in Vickers' cause, and to get them the order. 
After the admiral returned to Japan, this director gave him 
many proofs of his kindly feelings, and over a period of years 
sent several quite considerable sums of money to him. The case 
was investigated and it turned out that the admiral had taken 
commissions from other English armament firms. But we are 
dealing with an affair of 19 10. If it has anything at all to do 
with the affair we are now dealing with — which happened in the 
'nineties — then we must go into the close relations mentioned 
above between Admiral Fuji and this director of Vickers. 
What, for example does the laconic "it turned out" of the 
original report mean ? How did this bribery by Vickers of 
a Japanese admiral come out ? Was it a denunciation ? Are 
there traces to be found in the Fuji case of that mysterious 
journalist who had denounced Zaharoff somewhere in South 
America ? Let us look through the reports of the Tokio case 
and see if we can find a journalist. 
And we find this : 

Reuter's correspondent in Tokio bought from a former 
employee of the Siemens-Schukert firm a secret agreement, 
which indicated that the Siemens firm in London had promised 
money to Admiral Fuji. In the course of the investigation it 
was extracted that there was a regular system of corruption 
on the part of armament firms, and that the sums mentioned 
had been received by Rear-Admiral Fuji. 

That is to say, here we have once again a journalist who is 
extraordinarily interested in armaments. It seems as if a 
standard type had been constructed for Zaharoff scandals. 
But now, who is this journalist who gave things away ? 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE IO9 

Perhaps we shall get nearer to an answer if we put the old 
cut bono question. To whose profit was it that things should 
be given away ? In the case of Rear-Admiral Fuji and the cruiser 
ordered from Vickers the trail will surely lead us straight 
to the rival firm, the firm of Armstrong. Naturally there could 
be no information to be got out of Armstrongs, even if it 
had not meanwhile amalgamated with its old rival. But there 
were other possibilities of finding this mysterious "Mr. Thomas 
or something like that" in the history of the Armstrong firm. 
In 1904 the firm of Armstrong were sued in the courts for a 
commission, a quite insignificant case in which the public 
took no interest. I shall not give my own account of it, I shall 
quote Mr. G. A. Perris, who treated this obscure case in his 
pacifist book The War Traders as fully as was possible for him 
to do in his ignorance of the details quoted in these pages 
which are linked up with it. 

On December 14 and 15, 1904, one Robert Lawrie Thomp- 
son, formerly a special correspondent of The Times, took action 
in the Chancery division before Mr. Justice Warrington against 
Sir W. G. Armstrong, Whitworth & Co., Ltd., claiming an 
account and payment of commission and other sums alleged 
to be due from the firm or its predecessors, Armstrong, 
Mitchell & Co., with regard to orders for warships and other 
war material from the Governments of Chile, China, and 
Japan during the years 1 892-1 898. The case is only briefly 
reported, but the following details are given in The Times : 

After Mr. Dankwerts, k.c., had outlined the plaintiff's case, 
Mr. Rufus Isaacs, K.c, for the defendants said that he was 
glad to be able to inform the court that the parties had arranged 
terms of compromise which it was not necessary to state 
publicly. Proceedings were accordingly stayed. . . . "It ap- 
peared," said the report, "that the plaintiff, from his previous 
avocation, knew a great many things which were going on in 
various parts of the world and was personally acquainted with 
many foreign personages and officials in high position. His 
engagement with the defendant firm was not that of an ordinary 



IIO ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

commission agent ; his business was to find out what was 
happening in various foreign countries, to let his employers 
know what was likely to be required, and generally to prepare 
the ground for orders for warships and war material. His 
position, in fact, was somewhat analogous," said counsel, 
"to that of a private diplomatic agent or ambassador." This 
is credible enough. All foreign correspondents of leading 
journals have peculiar sources of information ; many of them 
have considerable influence in the countries where they reside. 
It is the pride of The Times to maintain something as nearly as 
possible approaching the status of a diplomatic service. De 
Blowitz in Paris and Dr. Morrison in Pekin are only two of the 
notable names in this hierarchy, and do we not know that Mr. 
Bourchier, the special correspondent of Printing House Square 
in the Balkans, was one of the authors of the Balkan Alliance ? 

From 1886 to 1897, then, Mr. Robert Lawrie Thompson was 
"private diplomatic agent or ambassador" for the Armstrong 
Company, and up to September 1894 he was also a special 
correspondent of The Times, ceasing to act in the latter capacity 
" owing to a difference of opinion on the political situation in 
the East." His first field of operations was Spain and Portugal ; 
"but this did not turn out a very profitable business." After- 
wards Mr. Thompson began to represent the firm in Argentina 
and Chile "in which latter country," said counsel, "he had 
special advantages for obtaining orders." What the special 
advantages were we are not told, but apparently the result was 
satisfactory, for, in August 1892, this remarkable commission 
agreement was arrived at with regard to operations by "the 
private ambassador both in South America and in Further 
Asia." Mr. Thompson went to China in 1893 and remained 
in the East till May 1 897 ; and it was in regard to sums out- 
standing under these agreements that he took action against 
the Armstrong Company. How much Mr. Thompson claimed, 
or how much Armstrongs paid, we do not know. It will be 
seen that there was to be at least £5,000 for expenses alone ; as 
the arrangement lasted so long this indicates that the other 
payments were substantial. 

There you have it, quite an unimportant commission lawsuit. 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE III 

For Mr. Perris it is one of the countless pillars of his pacifist 
case. But it means more to us. I assert that here we have the 
key to the statements of de S. and Ro. on the mysterious 
activities of Basil Zaharoff during the last ten years of last 
century. I got it more by luck than anything else, and came 
across it during a long detour over twenty years and via the 
unfortunate Admiral Fuji, but we have it. 

This Mr. Robert Lawrie Thompson, in public the special 
correspondent of The Times and in private the agent of the 
Armstrong firm, is, according to all the laws of probability, 
identical with the man whom we know from the statements 
of Ro., who was called "Thomas or something like that," 
a journalist by profession and on grounds not stated declared 
to be interested in the armament business. As a result of 
this unimportant lawsuit these grounds are now no longer 
a secret to us. This unimportant lawsuit is the plain tragedy of 
Sir Basil Zaharoff's successful rival. Follow his trail. Portugal, 
Spain — "but this did not turn out a very profitable business." 
We can well believe Mr. Thompson here ; at that time Spain 
was giving its orders to another English firm which in some 
mysterious way enjoyed the patronage of the Duchess of Villa- 
franca. So Mr. Thompson shook its dust from his feet and 
went off to South America. Argentina, Chile, we are always 
meeting these names in our investigations. Here Mr. Thompson 
once again came up against Zaharoff and here apparently he 
won the round. Does this fit in with what our friend Ro. says, 
that Zaharoff had a slight mishap in Chile — bribery, denuncia- 
tion by a journalist, and arrest. We may believe it, for how does 
the sentence go of the cautious counsel : "Chile, in which latter 
country he had special advantages for obtaining orders." 
Was this the nigger in the woodpile that made the Armstrong 
firm prefer to compromise rather than fight the case against 
this agent of theirs who knew so much ? At any rate, we are 
on the right track, for we hear almost immediately that Mr. 
Thompson went off thereafter to the Far East. To Japan ! 



112 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

But there he appears to have had little luck in business, other- 
wise the Armstrong firm would not have given him cause to 
complain that he had not got his commission. This Mr. Thomp- 
son was certainly an active agent. But fate condemned him for 
ten years to take almost the same course in his travels as a still 
more active one. From Spain to Argentina and Chile and 
then to Japan. He went down in defeat, and so he had to bring 
an action to get a couple of thousand pounds while his abler 
rival had used his fall to ascend to astronomical heights. 
Let us leave him in his defeat. He serves only to illumine 
by a court example the course of the victor, a course which 
so many mysteries surround. 

(In the interest of my reputation as a detective I should not 
tell tales, but I must admit that a good many things were 
discovered more by good luck than by anything else. Later it 
came out that "a director of the Vickers firm" who bribed 
Admiral Fuji was not Sir Basil himself but one of his subor- 
dinates, the manager of the Barrow works. And the journalist 
who bought the compromising documents in Tokio was not 
our Mr. Thompson but an entirely different person. But a high 
official in Scotland Yard to whom I told this story, sympathizing 
with my feeling of inferiority, confided to me that that sort 
of thing has happened once or twice even to the Yard.) 

Now, that is all that can be brought to light of the activities 
of Sir Basil from this time until the year 1904. We have been 
able to shed a light as feeble as that from a pocket lantern 
into a broad, deep, and dark gulf. The new method of mysti- 
fication directed by a woman is seen to be incomparably more 
efficient than the old smoke-screen tactics of the joyous days 
in St. Petersburg. 

It was left to the Investigation Commission of the U.S. Senate 
first to reveal publicly ZaharofF's activities on the American 
continent. As for South America, the material, though still in- 
complete, supplies weighty evidence in favour of what was said 
by Ro. and de S. Incidentally the American connections 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE II3 

established at that time, and directed for a long period by 
Michel Clemenceau, went on functioning up to Zaharoff's 
recent death when it was found out that the old man, whom 
everybody, including his biographer, thought to have aban- 
doned at long last all business interests, still got his high 
commission from each submarine order placed by certain 
European powers, notably Spain, with U.S. yards. (As for the 
connection of Zaharoff with the Clemenceau dynasty, we shall 
have a lot to say about it later.) 

But 'et us go back to the turn of the century. There is at 
least one fixed point in these years of deadly silence. Within 
the firm itself in England, Hiram Maxim had steadily become 
less and less an active partner and more and more a mere 
figurehead. What, indeed, had he to do ? The machine-gun 
had been invented, and in that line there was no improvement 
to be made. The days of boxing, of the mouse trap, of small 
but clever inventions had finished ; Maxim had arrived ; he 
had got as high as he could. He spent a vast sum in building 
a "dragonfly" twelve yards high and double as long and thrice 
as broad. This ghastly plesiosaurus could hardly fly, if indeed 
it could fly at all, but it caused a tremendous sensation. But 
it was no submarine. Not even Greece bought ; there was no 
chance of big business. If, none the less, the company's business 
grew and flourished, the credit therefor went to the man who 
had spent his youth in Tatavla, and who, in the succeeding 
twenty years, had brilliantly mastered his new trade. From 
that he deduced that for him Mr. Maxim was no longer a 
worthy partner. Once again, how would extending the scope 
of operations succeed ? 

Let us look at the Register of Business Companies for 1897. 
The firm belonging to the visible Mr. Maxim and the invisible 
Mr. Zaharoff was bought up. The purchaser was Vickers, 
Sons & Co., and the price was £i,3J3,334> which was to 
be paid to Messrs. Maxim and Zaharoff partly in cash, 
partly in shares of the new company. And here again we reach 



114 ZAHAROFF: THE ARMAMENTS KING 

a turning-point, if not for ZaharofF, at least for his career. 
First let us finish with Mr. Maxim. This sensitive gentleman 
had apparently during the negotiations for the purchase 
sacrificed a considerable sum in order to be a member of the 
new firm, and now the new Vickers-Maxim Company gave 
him what was practically honourable burial by putting him 
on the Board of Directors. He "will still place his valuable 
services at the disposal of the company as technical adviser." 
Those who know the language of industry know what that 
means. Once, however, he returned to prominence. That was 
in the Boer War. The struggle had been in bitter progress 
for some months and still England had not brought the tiny 
South African nation to its knees. In the city there was 
nervousness. Mining shares were falling, for the South African 
mines were no longer working. A Boer delegation was in 
The Hague ; peace negotiators ought to be sent to meet them. 
To whom in the City of London it occurred to entrust this 
difficult bit of private business to Sir Hiram Maxim is not to 
be ascertained now. Perhaps those achievements of Basil 
ZaharofF as an angel of peace in South America roused Maxim's 
jealousy. In any case he went off — after the British Foreign 
Minister, Lord Salisbury, had consented with a dubious shake 
of the head — with a thick wallet in his pocket. He promised 
the Boers one hundred thousand sterling if they would see 
reason and to the glory of God conclude peace, and to the 
honour of the City of London enable the gold mines to resume 
work again as soon as possible ; but after a day or two of 
negotiation, of which we know nothing, he returned across 
the Channel a little disappointed. For some months yet the 
Vickers firm had to go on delivering munitions for the Boer 
War until the business down there was done and gold mine 
shares again made a good showing. Sir Hiram had spared 
the City of London that hundred thousand pounds. Until 
191 1 the old gentleman remained on the Board of Directors. 
Then he retired, unwept, unsung, and wrote his reminiscences. 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE II J 

But what did the transaction mean for Mr. Zaharoff ? Now, 
at the turn of the century, let us once again have a look 
at him, fortune's favourite, as he gets into his shining, lac- 
quered, well-cushioned carriage, with two horses, at the Place 
de l'Etoile at the corner of the Avenue Hoche. It is a lovely 
day. The tall gentleman, brisk and active in his well-cut 
suit, has thrown a light summer overcoat carelessly on his 
shoulders, perceptibly in the southern manner, inimitably 
and a little too exuberantly, although that overcoat and that 
suit wee cut in Old Bond Street, and although the tie in 
the correctly cut waistcoat shines in the dull colours of the 
foggy island kingdom. No, this gentleman does not wear 
gaudy ties any more. Where, then, lies the exuberance ? In the 
greying hair ? In the short beard, as carefully tended as it is 
dashing, modelled on that of the third Napoleon ? In the steely 
look ? Ah, a man disguised. At any rate no longer the great 
cat of the old days ; this animal has already made its spring. 
Might this gentleman be the president of a Latin republic, 
who has signed death-warrants, assassinated his predecessor, 
and carried off a woman, and now someone else has ousted 
him and he lives and waits in Paris and conceals himself in 
suits cut in London ? No, that does not fit in either. No one 
has thrown him from the saddle in political war. He is not the 
kind who falls. Nor is he a speaker ; he knows how to be 
silent. The agate eyes, bold, clear, cold, are so steely that they 
look as if they were frosted. They are the slightly blinking 
eyes of a man with long sight, of a man who is accustomed 
to look ahead over far stretches of land or sea. And now we 
have him. This man must be an admiral of a southern land, 
and of the stock of those admirals who for five hundred years 
have been sailing every sea. Now we are on the right track. A 
conquistador ? Has he not just subdued two States in South 
America, this Hernando Cortes or Christopher Columbus, 
fitted out in Savile Row ? And how even now he takes a five- 
pound note from his pocket-book and, for a moment uncon- 



Il6 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

sciously reverting to the old habit of a money-changer, tests 
it against the light, holding it between long, slightly bent 
ringers — ringers a little stained with tobacco. 

Nay, stop. We cannot let him pass thus as he stands there 
in the prime of manhood. This morocco pocket-book gives 
us an opportunity with its discreet monogram. It is a little 
too full, it will soon lose its shape, and then the servant who 
sits on the dickey and drives the horses will get it. But to-day 
it, too, is at the prime of its morocco life. And what does it 
hold? 

Visiting-cards, a new address — 41 Avenue Hoche. There 
he has hired a small, delightfully quiet house, for the Maxim 
shares which he collected for the sale did not produce only 
Vickers shares but, what was much better, cash. If he looks 
out of his windows his eyes fall on the full green of the trees 
in the Pare Monceau. 

Money ? No, there isn't much money to be found in it. A 
couple of pound notes, a couple of hundred-franc notes, a 
cheque book. How high is the figure which he can risk writing 
on a cheque without having to fear that the bank will return 
it ? Two hundred thousand, four hundred thousand pounds ? 
He doesn't know exactly, and he does not, at least not yet, 
want to make the test, attractive though that might be. There 
is still some distance to go before he comes to the cheque 
for one million pounds which he lays before the Prince of 
Monaco. But what is money to him who has seen it flow 
in from all the four corners of the continents of the globe ? 
There is no need for him to think of that, as long as, clear- 
skinned and strong-muscled, he can walk along briskly and 
actively in his well-cut suit. 

He does not want to think about that. But let us try to 
look into the compartments of the morocco pocket-book, 
and the over-full receptacle of a career. What is this ? A 
letter ? He thought he had thrown it away. It was from a girl 
in London, a little actress. What was her name ; he cannot 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE II7 

remember now. She is nameless like a beast, and yet thirty, 
forty years later there she will be a greyhaired woman emerging 
out of poverty and misery to be . a witness in the case of an 
obscure person from Wilkomir, the ghost of a past which 
never existed. But to-day he lives, clear-skinned and strong- 
muscled, in the sleek skin of ripe manhood as needless of pardon 
and as free from sin as any other beast which eats its like. 

And there is a picture. A photograph. He knows the three 
and thirty melodious names of the grandee of Spain. There 
she is, black-haired, slender. Three little girls press their tiny 
forms against her. What are their names ? Whom are they like ? 
And of whom will they be the heirs far down time's corridors, 
so far that in his prime of manhood he does not need to think 
about it ? But it is pleasant to turn those agate-coloured sea- 
man's eyes to these childish faces, while he leans back negli- 
gently in the highly lacquered, well-sprung carriage — steel 
springs from Sheffield 1 — and watches in the breeze blue sky 
stretching up to unfathomable heights peeping through between 
trees and housetops as he drives past. For he is still young. 

He is still young. Scarcely forty-five. He might find other 
things if he went on searching those well-stocked preserves 
of his life, if he got to that last and most secret pocket where 
there is a document once got ready in anticipation of a 
marriage ; the paper is yellowing. But let it rest untouched. 
Life still goes upward. 

But we are losing our way. It is no accident that we will 
never get so far in this life as Mr. Basil ZaharofF. And it is not 
his private life in which we are engaged in spying. We are only 
interested in his other activities. And by that we mean neither 
the details of his bank account nor the number of people 
whom he, with the help of the weapons bought from him, 
returned to the earth that bore them, some years earlier than 
would have been their destiny. This bank account of Mr. Basil 
ZaharofF, whose credits are in figures and whose debits are 



Il8 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

men's lives, will have to be taken elsewhere. The books are 
closed to mortals. But we shall examine the methods, the 
methods which in the polemics against him are called "Za- 
haroff's system" and which were often copied by his rivals, 
but never equalled. It will not be mal a propos to turn what we 
can learn into a text-book for budding armament makers. 

What are the characteristics of the "Zaharoff system" ? 
He brought three new elements into the business. 

The first we will call the "Balkan" element, as we have seen 
it at work in the "Tuesday-Thursday" bet, in the story of the 
chandelier, in the anecdote of the admiral who had a son 
with a passion for yachting, in the case of Chile, and then, 
when it is applied on a larger scale and on a wider stage, in 
the case of the bribery scandals in Tokio, bribery obviously 
begun by Zaharoff and developed as they could by his rivals. 
The details of the Tokio case and also of the experiments 
previously made in South America show the technique 
and practice of these manoeuvres. That anyone could go 
to a responsible person and say "to-morrow is Thursday" 
or "I'll sell you a yacht for ten pounds" is clearly a case — 
in this extreme form — of a story that is actually untrue, or, 
if it is true, then it is a case of one of those dangerous excep- 
tions which rightly have been transferred from the sphere 
of history to that of anecdote. The refined technique with its 
carefully worked out guarantees against the consequences of 
failure, that method which has been called Balkan, and which 
we shall now describe more scientifically as "bribery in one 
State," has three stages and typical elements : 

First : There is the preparation, which consists in getting 
information regarding the person to be bribed — private life, 
dark places, passions which could be used possibly for purposes 
of blackmail — then in getting information on the chances of 
business and the activities of rivals, including price-cutting 
and industrial espionage. The best illustration of this is the 
revelation before an English court of the meritorious efforts 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE II9 

of Mr. Thompson. This tireless preparation to ensure the 
success of the transaction is the reason why, since the South 
American incident in the middle of the 'nineties, there is 
usually mentioned, when an armament agent is arrested, that 
he has had " secret military documents on him" ; in other 
words, that he was "a spy." That is not true. The Zaharoffs 
do not need documents so as to be able to betray the State 
aimed at to another ; they only betray it to itself. 

Second : The corruption itself. This is only seldom done 
in so crude a manner as in the Fuji case ; this obtaining of 
orders from Japan was amateurs' work, and that is a proof 
that Basil Zaharoff was not personally mixed up in it. Actually, 
as we know, it was a subordinate. The more expert at that time 
worked on a system of several bank accounts and aliases. 
After the revelations in the Fuji case there was a cessation in 
attempts to bribe individuals. On principle, it became the rule 
to corrupt whole groups of responsible officials who then 
covered each other, for if the discovery of one of them led 
to an investigation, then the culpability of the whole lot of them 
would come out. Here is the typical course of practically every 
case of group bribery — a flare up, a week or two of excite- 
ment and indignation — and a quashing of the whole business 
on military, national, or some other grounds of prestige. 
Then a couple of years, or a couple of decades, later, as we have 
often seen, there is an investigation, but by that time it is often 
impossible even to say where it occurred. Someone became 
very interested at some time in the documents connected 
with it, and then forgot to take them back to the archives. 
As far as the bribery of individuals is concerned, that very 
seldom took the form of handing out money; it was rather 
in the nature of "a preliminary contract." The official who 
yielded was enabled after he retired on pension to get on the 
Board of this or that company with this or that salary attached. 

Third : Transactions under the headings First and Second 
needed money. But it is worth while, for thus they become 



120 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

foolproof. Once they were safe, one was able to cover the 
expenses by increasing the price. If so much had been risked, 
then it was not only just but in accordance with economic 
principle to add a risk premium. Remember de S.'s testimony : 
Zaharoff got the order "although his price was 50 per cent, 
higher than that of his rivals." Even this reckless rise in 
prices is typical. It can only be done with safety when the 
competitors have been reduced to complete silence. Either 
the order was shared with them, or at least they got a share in 
the profits. If that precaution is omitted, then somewhere a 
Reuter's correspondent will buy compromising documents, 
or a young member of the Opposition party will accidentally 
get hold of evidence and then some Admiral Fuji ends his 
career on the scaffold. 

So much for the theory of the "corruption of one State" ; 
we shall meet flesh-and-blood examples. The second pillar 
of the Zaharoff system is the principle of "bilateral operation." 
— of serving two sides. That was an original discovery of 
Basil Zaharoff, that arming of natural opponents, "arch- 
enemies," and those who actually are engaged in strife. Then 
jt is usually advantageous, as in that South American instance 
— Chile- Argentina, or Bolivia-Paraguay ? — to put a temporary 
stop to the fighting so that the armaments can be peacefully 
delivered and be paid for. Remember, too, the case of the 
Greek and Turkish submarines ; how all these transactions 
in their original form have that spice of folly about them ! 
They are armament jests, so to say, which now are by no 
means up to the standard of Mr. Basil Zaharoff now that he 
no longer wears gaudy ties, and they have to be made refined 
accordingly. The keyword in the refining of the bilateral 
operation is nationalism. Even in the case of the sale of the 
submarine the young Zaharoff, with the sure instinct for trade 
of an inhabitant of Tata via, had represented himself as a Greek 
nationalist in Greece and a Turkish nationalist in Turkey. 
Meantime, in Europe and elsewhere nationalism had not only 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE 121 

made progress, but the industry, too, had progressed, and as 
a result there arose the cry for a "national industry." For 
instance, it was quite intolerable to the Italians that they 
should shoot with any other cannon but Italian-made ones, 
and similarly with the Russians. From the trade point of view, 
and from Mr. Zaharoff's in particular, that meant that the firm 
of Vickers, which was organized mainly for the export trade — 
and why not, when one possessed such an export specialist ? — 
ran a good risk of losing its foreign markets. This danger 
reached its height in the year 1905, in that year when Zaharoff's 
first armament jest had developed to its full extent and changed 
into real and bloody earnest. In Russia they were using Zahar- 
off's guns — remember the gallantry with which a lady-killer 
dealt with the Grand Duke S. In Japan they were using 
Zaharoff's guns, too — that the cruiser whose building cost 
Admiral Fuji his life was not the first of its kind has been 
established. The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 brought 
these weapons out against each other, and on one and the 
other side they proved their high quality. But this lucrative 
trade had a painful side to it, because in 1905 not only in 
Russia and Japan but almost everywhere else could be heard 
the slogan of "a national industry." We know what that 
might mean to the firm of Vickers. In Sheffield, London, and 
the Avenue Hoche there was great confusion for six months. 
But once again Mr. Basil Zaharoff fell on his feet. Do you 
want a national industry ? You shall have it. It has never been 
stated that Mr. Basil Zaharoff is only a Greek, Turk, Russian, 
Englishman, and Frenchman. He can be other men as well. 
What now began was a most cunning trade in "national 
industries," and concealed under it the most cunning appli- 
cation yet made of the principle of bilateral operation which 
you can imagine. First of all there was only a sort of finger 
practice on the part of the virtuoso. The scene was Italy ; 
the year 1906. The name of a newly founded, patented, guaran- 
teed national Italian armament industry was Vickers-Terni. 



122 ZAHAROFF: THE ARMAMENTS KING 

You will note that it is no longer a case of arming an ally of 
Great Britain ; the reversal of policy of Italy in the Great War 
was very difficult even for that cunningest of men from 
Tatavla to foresee. 

The second step was more difficult. It led to Germany. Here 
one had to walk warily ; new foundations made a stir. But 
Mr. Zaharoff had even during the happy days of the Maxim 
Nordenfeldt company set great store by attracting distinguished 
foreigners. Among them was a Herr Loewe from Germany, 
the partner in a great German munitions concern. Herr Loewe 
had been taken over from the Board of Directors of Maxims 
to the Board of Directors of Vickers. In 1903 he died, but 
now an old friendship was recalled and suddenly, though very 
quietly and without attracting any attention, the way to the 
dead Herr Loewe was carefully surveyed and reconstructed. 
His firm was the Ludwig Loewe A.G. in Berlin, partner in 
one of the biggest armament rings in Germany, to which also 
belonged the Berlin-Karlsruhe Industriewerke, the Duerener 
Metall, Gebrueder Boehler, Mauser, Daimler-Benz, and 
Silesian mining companies. The other partner in Ludwig 
Loewe who still survived was a Herr Paul von Gontard — 
we shall have the pleasure of meeting him later. Ostensibly 
no change at all was made. But in England a tiny nameplate 
appeared among the many nameplates on the doors of Vickers' 
offices which read "London Agents for the German Arms 
and Munitions Works Paul von Gontard." 

The third stage was still more tactfully handled. It was 
accomplished in France. Here, too, it was quite impossible 
to "found" a company — thegrande nation is the most mistrustful 
of all. But in 1907 there began a very carefully concealed 
establishment of relations between Mr. Zaharoff and the 
Schneider-Creusot firm, his great French competitor, who 
armed everyone anywhere who was not armed by Vickers, 
Armstrongs, or Krupps. It is extremely difficult to understand 
at once the growth and the background of this transaction. 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE 12} 

The allegation in Communist sources that since 1907 Basil 
Zaharoff "controlled" Schneider-Creusot is in this form a 
gross exaggeration, for in Le Creusot there lived also some 
strong men who were not so easily to be induced to follow 
the Sheffield lead. But there was a bank belonging to the French 
heavy industry and to the Creusot concern in particular, the 
Banque de l'Union parisienne, and after the World War it was 
suddenly revealed that Mr. Zaharoff, of full intent and very 
privately, had for years been eating up its shares. In any case 
the transaction between Zaharoff and Le Creusot was com- 
pleted ; it will occupy us considerably later. It seems that each 
party hoped to trick the other, rather than resort to open 
warfare. The result was, in spite of the shoulder to shoulder, 
bank balance to bank balance theory, the competition was 
fiercer than ever, a competition which, as we shall see, in any 
event went on into the Great War. But none the less, in spite 
of this competition, despite the fact that everywhere in the 
world there was a call for "national" weapons, that Italians 
wanted Italian weapons, Englishmen English, Frenchmen 
French, and Germans German, Mr. Zaharoff went on supply- 
ing the goods. "Arch-enemies" before they went to war or 
after they went to war were from now on no longer compelled 
to buy their weapons from one and the same company, if that 
was contradictory to their national ambitions and pride. That 
their money, or at least a part of their money, with more or 
less delay, came into one and the same pocket did not trouble 
anyone much. In any case, no one knew about it, or knew too 
late. The development of the principle of double-dealing 
by a detour by way of nationalism was accomplished. 

We have dealt with "corruption of one State," and with 
"the principle of double-dealing." The third principle of 
the Zaharoff system is what I wish to call "the principle of 
incitement." Its simplest and most innocent form we have 
already seen in the classic case of the first purchase of sub- 
marines by Greece. If the purchaser hesitates, he is "incited" 



124 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

by the news that payment in cash will not be asked ; he 
will get credit, delayed if possible until after the victory, if 
only proper guarantees will be forthcoming. This principle, 
so dear to any merchant, was of course not discovered by 
Basil Zaharoff, nor was even that development of it for the 
special case of armaments whereby a loan was granted to the 
"needy" State, naturally not in cash, but with this clause in 
the agreement that the loan would be used to buy weapons 
from the firm specified. If the armament firm itself did not 
grant credit, then a banking group closely connected with the 
firm did. But it did not delve into its reserves to furnish it ; 
it worked by way of overdraft. For the so-called scientific, 
technical — from the world-market point of view — funding 
of this financial operation Basil Zaharoff found on the Board 
of Vickers a specialist of a very high order, Sir Vincent Caillard, 
a specialist on loans of international standing, a fellow-conser- 
vative with, and a friend of, the elder Chamberlain, and in 
his private life no organizer of armaments but what may be 
called a minor poet, an amateur who liked to set to music 
Blake's Songs of Innocence, and who also was a well-known 
dabbler in the occult. After his death some years ago Lady 
Caillard published a book called Sir Vincent Caillard Speaks 
from the Spirit World. There is no mention of armaments. 

The technical financial funding thus was entrusted to Sir 
Vincent, and he dealt personally everywhere where a regular 
transaction took place. There is, as you must know, a possibility 
which in this little guide of ours so far we have overlooked. 
Wine can also be made from grapes. There were transactions 
which were perfectly regular. They consisted in the production 
of guns and the selling of them at a suitable profit, but slightly 
cheaper than the competitor's guns, to someone who needs 
them. But the full use of the Caillard device, its application 
to crude reality, that, as we shall soon see, was the task of 
Basil Zaharoff. 

Now it is not sufficient to induce States, who in principle 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE 12} 

are ready to be customers, to give orders by giving them good 
terms of payment and armament credits. They must all be 
induced first of all to become ready to be customers. They will 
only become ready, whether they are republics or constitu- 
tional monarchies, when it is made clear to them that they are 
threatened. Here was the field on which the Vickers-Zaharoff 
system had to prepare the ground for the use of the Vickers- 
Caillard system. Here the principle of incitement first comes 
into its own. I publish here a letter which in 1907 — that is, one 
year after the nameplate with the legend "London Agents of 
the German Arms and Munition Works Paul von Gontard" 
was put on the door of Vickers' offices — was sent from Karls- 
ruhe to an address in Paris. 

We telegraphed you yesterday as follows : Please await a 
letter sent to-day to Paris. 

The reason for this telegram was that we want to get an 
item put into one of the most-read French papers, if possible 
in the Figaro, which should go something as follows : 

The French Army Command has resolved to speed up con- 
siderably the equipment of the army with machine-guns and 
to provide double the number originally contemplated. 

We ask you to do everything you can to get such an item 
inserted. 

The German Arms and Munition Works. 

This letter is signed by Herr Geheimer Baurat Paul von Gon- 
tard and a gentleman called Rosengarten or Kosegarten. The 
letter came into the hands of the Socialist deputy, Karl Lieb- 
knecht, who read it out in the German Reichstag. What was 
all this about ? The deputies learned that a day or two later 
from the lips of another deputy, the Centrist member, Erz- 
berger, who later became a Minister : 

The letter dates from the year 1907. In that year people in 
military circles were not so permeated with the doctrine of 
the value of machine-guns as they are to-day when they are 



126 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

described as indispensable. In 1907 there were many people 
even in the German Army who still regarded the machine-gun 
as a weapon for use against Hereros and Hottentots, and the 
equipment for that purpose was very small, practically 
negligible. France however began to put more machine-guns 
at the service of a modern European army. When I remember 
this, then the letter of the German armament firm has quite a 
different aspect than if we do not connect it up with that 
situation. How often did they tell us in the Reichstag, when 
in the years 1908, 1909, and 1910 we voted forty million marks 
for machine-guns — that is, after this letter — we need these guns, 
we need this new equipment. We agreed to it — because France 
was so and so far ahead of us in that sphere. 

Nor should we fail to notice here that the deputy Liebknecht 
was murdered, and so was the deputy Erzberger. But Herr 
von Gontard went on living even after these speeches in the 
German Reichstag. And also as member of the Board of Control 
of the Berlin-Karlsruhe Industriewerke A.G., of the Dueren 
Metall Werke A.G., of the Gebrueder Boehler A.G., of the 
Mauser A.G. in Oberndorf, of the Daimler-Benz A.G., of 
the Ludwig Loewe A.G. in Berlin, and the Schlesische Berg- 
werks-und Hutten A.G. in Breslau. 

Would you like to go a little farther into the story of that 
letter ? An unnamed editor in Paris wrote a book which was 
called Behind the Scenes in French Journalism. He, too, knows 
of Herr von Gontard's letter. And he writes : 

The item [wanted by Gontard to appear in the Figaro] was 
not accepted in that form. The falsehood was too crude and 
the War Ministry in Paris would have at once issued a denial. 
But some days later there appeared, quite by accident, of course 
— in the Figaro, the Matin, and the Echo de Paris — a series of 
articles on the superior merits of the French machine-gun and 
the superiority it thereby conferred on the French Army. 
Armed with these newspapers, the Prussian deputy, Schmidt, 
who was an ally of the German heavy industry, interpellated 
the Chancellor and asked him what the Government proposed 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE 127 

to do to take counter-measures against this French threat. 
Bluffed, and at the same time alarmed, the Reichstag, by a big 
majority and without discussion, granted supplies for the 
increase of machine-guns. 

You can see here the principle of incitement make its detour 
via the "arch-enemy." That is clearly "made in Tatavla," and it 
does not matter whether or not one can prove that Mr. Zaharoff 
personally had his finger in this small but very delicate pie of 
his close business friend. But you can also see that the machin- 
ery is not functioning quite perfectly, that the editor of the 
Figaro did not welcome that little item about machine-guns. 
Zaharoff would not have been Zaharoff if he had not drawn 
the lesson from such unwelcome difficulties. If he reasons 
aright, then things must be argued thus. The application of 
the principle of incitement is a mere gamble so long as the 
assistance of the Press is not always to be relied upon. That 
assistance could be granted ; it could also be refused. Then the 
principle of incitement is foolproof only when one has no 
longer need to bribe papers because one owns them. No guns 
without editors. But in the land of the mistrustful grande 
nation the buying of a newspaper by a foreigner is a business 
that raises a lot of dust, just as much, indeed, as the buying 
of a munitions factory. The simple principles of logic indicate 
the solution ; if a foreigner wants to secure the possession of a 
munitions factory in France by the possession of a newspaper, 
then he must secure the possession of the newspaper by ceasing, 
if possible, to be a foreigner. Now we shall see whether the 
argument was correct. If so, there must be proof of the appli- 
cation of that logic in the life of Basil Zaharoff in the years 
after 1907. Is there ? 

In the year 1906 Mr. Zaharoff allied himself with Loewe- 
Gontard in Germany ; in the year 1907 with Schneider- 
Creusot in France. Thereby the commercial-strategic basis 
for the arming of two arch-enemies by firms having national 
nameplates was created. Then as a result the principle of incite- 



128 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

ment was applied in the year 1907 ; there is that letter we have 
just read sent by Herr von Gontard to Paris. Besides, the 
letter deals with machine-guns, Zaharoff 's speciality. The action 
succeeded, as we know from what was said by the deputy 
Erzberger, but it succeeded under circumstances which 
showed Zaharoff very plainly how insecure was his position 
in France. Insecure positions were not to his taste nowadays. 
So he made them secure. Nine months after he acquired an 
interest in Schneiders in Le Creusot, six months after Herr 
von Gontard's letter, in June 1908 we find Mr. Basil Zaharoff 
suddenly in the ranks of the Maecenases. What in his opinion 
does the world need most urgently ? Homes for seamen. So 
the Greco-Russian Englishman felt an inward urge to found a 
home for French seamen. Why ? We learn that some months 
later. On the occasion of an exhibition in Bordeaux, Mr. 
Zaharoff, on the ground of services rendered, unknown to 
himself, "wins a prize," and on that ground the Minister 
for the Navy recommends the conferring upon him of the red 
ribbon of the Legion of Honour. 

What was the reason of the founding of a home for seamen ? 
Why a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour ? Later it was 
ascertained that the nationality of the new knight had been 
deliberately made mysterious. Was he a Frenchman ? In this 
connection there began in November 1908 a minor smoke- 
screen manoeuvre, which was crowned with success. And 
with such success that within a year, by the end of 1909, 
the cloud was so thick that the gentleman with the red ribbon 
in his lapel, who in all probability was a Frenchman, was 
able to cast an eye upon the Paris Press. Surely a person who 
had founded a home for French seamen had the right to 
interest himself in publicity in the land of his choice. There 
was, of course, no question of political publicity ; it was only 
a harmless illustrated paper, the Quotidiens illustris, in which 
he bought an interest. Then six months later, in June 1910, 
he was appointed administrateur by the second annual general 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE 1 29 

meeting — that is, by himself. And then, for the first time, was 
it revealed that this harmless illustrated paper was publishing 
the political paper Excelsior "of a type which was completely 
new in France." Let us sum things up ; to apply successfully 
"the principle of incitement" a munitions merchant needed a 
political paper. So the merchant with whom we are concerned, 
founded a home for seamen in order — via the Minister of 
Marine, and an exhibition in Bordeaux — to get a Legion 
ribbon to wear in his coat, and that made possible his purchase 
of an illustrated paper. That paper in its turn came into pos- 
session of a political paper. Would you like to take a glance 
at the future fate of the Excelsior ? Then let us commit an 
indiscretion and print a private letter : 

Excelsior 

Paris, November 4, 191 2 
M. Basil Zaharoff, 

5 3 Avenue Hoche, Paris. 
Sir, 

As you are to-morrow seeing the secretary of M. Kokovtzev 
and are being good enough to advocate the interests of the 
Excelsior, I take the liberty of sending you some cuttings from 
Paris papers of recent date. This sort of advertisement appears 
regularly over a year in most Paris papers. Enclosed please 
find cuttings from the Matin, the Journal, the Gaulois, the Echo 
de Paris, and also from the Patrie. If the matter of rates is 
raised, our rate is four francs per line. 

Meantime I take this opportunity in the name of the Excelsior 
to thank you for all that you are willing to and can do in this 
matter which interests us so greatly. 

I am, sir, 

Your obedient servant, 

William Huguet. 

To that I can only add that William Huguet was the adver- 
tisement manager of the Excelsior, and that "M. Kokovtzev" 



130 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

was identical with the gentleman of that name who was then 
Finance Minister of His Majesty the Czar. 

The marriage of Mr. Zaharoff with the Excelsior was dis- 
solved only in 1920. Then Mr. Zaharoff, as we shall see, had 
even better reasons than in 1908 to see to it by every means 
in his power that he was regarded as a Frenchman. Other 
people, as we shall also see, had equally good reasons for taking 
the opposite view and for "denouncing" him as an English- 
man. The paper which was most unfriendly to Mr. Zaharoff, 
and was in opposition to England, was the Petit Parisien. 
On December 31, 1920, the Excelsior came under the control 
of the Petit Parisien. On January 1, 1921, the Petit Parisien 
began the new year with a new policy, and at a stroke became 
Anglophil. So Anglophil, indeed, that the other side was com- 
pelled to take counter-measures ; the Matin, which had been 
Anglophil hitherto, turned completely round in that same 
January, began to detest England and instituted a demasking 
campaign against Basil Zaharoff, hoping to draw him from 
behind the scenes and place him in the full glare of the foot- 
lights. 

This transaction may close our text-book for junior arma- 
ment makers; it is already closed for seniors; we have supported 
theory with a series of practical instructional examples and now 
will have no further difficulty in understanding the first really 
big action of our hero, an action complete in itself and fought 
out with extreme bitterness. It concerns what we have already 
called "the conquest of Russia by a munitions agent." 

His own personal history, which is identical in time with the 
"romantic period" in Basil Zaharoff 's life — that is, his activity 
in St. Petersburg in the years 1888-1890 — we already know. 
We know also the real history ; we have already sketched its 
outlines. Its scene was in the Far East, on the Yangtze Kiang, 
where another "sick man" on the Hoangho is about to suffer 
amputation. It is a cheerful piece of surgery with odds laid 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE 131 

on success by England, Germany, Russia, and Japan ; not in 
vain did Mr. Zaharoff interest himself in Tokio in connection 
with the Chino- Japanese War of 1894. A technical difference 
of opinion between the surgeons led, as we have seen, to the 
Russo-Japanese War of 1904-190 5, and in 1905 things went so 
far in Russia that once again it was possible to believe in her 
armament. So in 1905 Mr. Zaharoff went off again to Russia. 
For nearly fifteen years he had not been in Russia — decisive 
years for him and for his career. In them he had met his 
duchess ; he had fought out to the end his war, first against 
Nordenfeldt and then against Maxim, and annihilated them both. 
On his visiting-cards was the modest legend, so important for 
those who know what it means, Administrates deligui de la 
SociiH Vickers Maxim. In his life all was now ordered, regu- 
lated, assured, settled. And now, fifty-six years of age, he 
returned to the scene of his earlier triumphs, the triumphs 
of an adventurer, the triumphs of youth, apparently endea- 
voured to wipe out these last fifteen years, and, although his 
hair is grey and his limbs have stiffened, to take up life again 
where he left it in 1890. Otherwise, how can we understand 
the following testimony given by Baroness P., a reserved 
witness who weighs her words : 

It must have been shortly after the Russo-Japanese War 
when he came back to St. Petersburg. It was then that I first 
got to know him, but before that I had heard a lot about the 
affaires he had during his first stay, particularly that with K. 
[the dancer]. Other people who had known him then told me 
that he had greatly aged. We, six or eight of us, met him the 
evening he got to St. Petersburg, or the evening immediately 
following, and a young man [his secretary ?] at the Villa R. 
restaurant. He gave one the impression of a tired man who 
makes a great effort to appear young and vigorous, the type 
that one finds so constantly among Americans. His French 
was not quite correct, but then we spoke Russian and he spoke 
Russian like a native. He was very attentive to me, but he 



132 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

conversed at the same time with Staff Col. (later General) 
von W. on military matters. Suddenly he stopped and quite 
spontaneously in a low voice paid me a rather heavy compli- 
ment on my red hair. I took it lightly and parried it. Then 
something rather unpleasant happened. ZaharofF, who up to 
then had been the perfect gentleman, suddenly slapped the 
table with the palm of his hand and cried out loudly : "Really, 
there are no other women but red-haired ones. Only red-haired 
women should be allowed." We were rather taken aback, and 
tried to laugh it off, but people at the surrounding tables took 
notice and began to look our way. Zaharoff called the manager, 
took a roll of banknotes from his pocket-book, held them out, 
and begged him in almost bitter tones to clear out every woman 
who hadn't red hair. I am quite sure he wasn't drunk ; he had 
drunk practically nothing. During this scene he looked posi- 
tively sinister with his terribly cold eyes. I couldn't help feeling 
that he was making a test of his own energy. The correctness of 
his secretary who took no part in it surprised me. Zaharoff 
repeated his mad demand. Amid a general tumult and indigna- 
tion on the part of the many people present the manager asked 
us if we would go to a private room. To my great relief 
Zaharoff appeared willing. Scarcely had we got to this room 
ere ZaharofF's secretary disappeared. He was away for ten 
minutes. Then there was a knock at the door. The owner of 
the restaurant appeared and said that the wishes of the gentle- 
man had been fulfilled and that there were now only red- 
haired women left in the restaurant. ZaharofF nodded, the 
secretary reappeared, but we stayed where we were and didn't 
return to the main room, so that I can't say from my own 
observation whether or no ZaharofF's behest had been carried 
out. I tell you again there wasn't the slightest question of his 
being drunk. 

Thus far the witness Baroness P., and very remarkable 
evidence hers is. There is certainly no doubt of the truth of it. 
An invention would have been told quite differently, and in 
quite different tones. Besides, this mad and in many ways 
shocking incident is vouched for by another witness, a Baltic 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE I33 

aristocratic lady living in London. But let us leave the man and 
get back to the business. This "man with the cold eyes" who 
would soon be sixty and who "seeks to make test of his own 
energy" found the Russian market very different to what he 
remembered it. So different, indeed, that there was no chance 
of success with the old methods of getting orders through 
women, presents of champagne, and officers of the guard, 
with none, indeed, of the old methods which had been so 
effective. There had been something like a run on Russia. 
All his old opponents were there. At first it was only a matter 
of general competition for orders, and in that, of course, Zahar- 
off took his part and the good old Maxim guns went in quan- 
tities from England to the East. But then — we are still in 1905 
— there arose from every quarter that cry for the nationalizing 
of the armaments industry. How Basil Zaharoff had swift 
as lightning accommodated himself to the new demand, 
and, an enthusiastic convert, had already founded in every 
corner of Europe "national armaments industries" we have 
described in some detail. But the talk went round, and in other 
places, too, mothers had produced able sons who concerned 
themselves with armament production. The result was that 
the run on Russia which at first was just a struggle for orders 
became a general confusion of people anxious to found 
national industries. Armstrong, John Brown, Skoda from 
Austria, Augustin Normand from France, Blohm & Voss 
from Hamburg — these are the enemy, which Mr. Zaharoff 
can still drive from the field. They take a bite somewhere, 
gobble a mouthful, and then are satisfied. But there are two 
more serious enemies. The first is Schneider-Creusot, the second 
Krupp of Essen. For the moment Krupp stays at the frontier 
and looks in like an unemployed man in front of the window 
of a delicatessen store, at the dazzling business which is being 
done inside in Russia the great — till someone admits him. 
But nobody does. That no one does is the work and one of the 
chief tasks of M. Schneider from Le Creusot. For it is a matter 



IJ4 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

here of a French "preserve." And when it is a matter of a 
"preserve," and since there is already some knowledge of 
the business methods of Mr. Basil Zaharoff, the Schneider 
firm, supported by the Quai d'Orsay — to whom the firm has 
been pleased to yield two of its highest functionaries — begins 
its fight for Russia by appealing to the savings of France. 
The small man from Perpignan shall pay for Russian guns ! 
The friend in the East shall protect us against Germany ! 
Let's have a Russian loan 1 A flood of petty investors' money 
is diverted by the Quai d'Orsay and the Schneider firm to 
St. Petersburg. This is the French method of using Zaharoff's 
loan trick. Zaharoff's loans are supplied by Vickers them- 
selves or by a group of banks ; Schneider's guns, delivered to 
all quarters of the globe, are paid for by the humble French 
provincials. 

Here is a situation with which Basil Zaharoff cannot deal. 
The mobile capital of the Vickers firm is tied up in the national 
industries established on Zaharoff's system, and even with 
these establishments export is falling. Even the strongest 
individual firm cannot do what the easily inflamed RJpublique 
fratifaise can do, and the English capitalist has too steady a 
head to take patriotic action to the advantage of a firm from 
Sheffield. In short, one individual, Mr. Basil Zaharoff from 
Tatavla, stands alone against one of the most comprehensive, 
strongest-financed, masterful, passionate business strokes 
which ever Paris has staged. 

Accordingly the gentleman from Tatavla must find other 
methods. He strikes when the stroke is least expected, not in 
St. Petersburg but in Le Creusot. One day the people from 
Le Creusot learned that this tough Mr. Zaharoff who appears 
with their very capable agent, a man equal to any other 
opponent, Councillor Dmitri Rubinstein, in the offices of 
Ministers or the lobbies of the Duma, and whom, with the 
aid of their jingling gold from the stocking feet, they hope 
surely to squeeze out, has suddenly become their partner. 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE I35 

At a stroke, unseen, by way of a rather unwary bank, he had 
established himself in their midst. And there he sits and is not 
to be got rid of. They can do nothing, they can gain nothing 
without him also gaining. Thereby we find Basil Zaharoff's 
predatory expedition to Le Creusot which we have already 
analysed, plus the foundation of the seamen's home, the 
Legion of Honour, and the purchase of a paper, taking on a 
new and its correct significance. Naturally this was by no means 
the end of the fight. The harpoon fired by Zaharoff is driven 
in and can't be shaken off, but the whale from Le Creusot 
puts up a stern struggle. And now the chase begins. 

The first scene of action was Putiloff — the Putiloff works, 
the biggest private armaments concern in Russia, a centre of 
revolution and therefore fallen into disgrace at the Imperial 
Court. Schneider-Creusot now began to pump their gold into 
this concern, which was almost bled white after the Russo- 
Japanese War. In 1910 the capital of Putiloff was greatly in- 
creased. Schneider-Creusot bought shares to the tune of a 
million pounds, as many as they could get. But the harpoon 
still sticks. There is no Board room where one will not meet 
the imperial of Mr. Zaharoff. 

Then the whale tried to dodge the pursuer. If it was not 
possible to swallow up the Putiloff concern undisturbed, then 
it might be possible to gain one's end by founding a new 
concern, the shipyards and gun factories in Reval. As a begin- 
ning, an order for two cruisers for them would be got from 
St. Petersburg. And to make certain that this lucrative little 
business would go on unnoticed they put forward the modest 
little French firm of Augustin Normand as the promoter of 
the scheme, intending to show their hand at the last moment 
when the great Schneider firm would at last have succeeded 
in establishing a 100 per cent. French armaments industry in 
nationalist Russia. But just at that last moment events showed 
that there had been a slight miscalculation. In that last moment 
it was announced that St. Petersburg was willing to grant the 



I36 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

concession to the modest firm of Augustin Normand for the 
Reval works, but not to it exclusively. But together with the 
modest English firm of Beardmore of Glasgow which was also 
interested. And as behind Augustin Normand appears the typi- 
cal profile of M. Schneider, so behind the harmless Beardmore 
firm appears an imperial which is well known to us. For when 
things are revealed it is seen that the Beardmore firm stands 
in the same relation to Vickers as Normand does to Schneider. 
The harpoon was made by a first-class Sheffield firm, and is 
not easily shaken off. 

The critical stage in the chase came nearer. The whale took 
another tack. If no success was to be gained in the Baltic, 
some might be gained in the Black Sea. If no success was to 
be gained by founding a new concern something might be 
done if entry could be got into an old and obscure concern. 
Down at Nikolaieff on the Black Sea there had been since 
1895 a shipyard which had worked quietly and honestly — 
until 1911. In 1911 rumours got about that the Duma was on 
the point of agreeing to a new and comprehensive naval 
construction programme. That roused the French in St. Peters- 
burg to yet greater activity. Now that they had got the savings 
of the citizens of Perpignan to the East, they wanted at last 
to make some profit out of them. A fleet should be built with 
the French money, the shipyards at Nikolaieff should be 
enlarged. Then, by gad, there would at last be a French 
company. The desire was expressed in St. Petersburg. The 
men who expressed it rattled the gold coins from the stocking 
feet, and the Russian officials very promptly consented without 
making any difficulties. So the firm was turned into a French 
company according to French commercial law, with its regis- 
tered offices in Paris — 65 Rue de la Victoire. This time things 
were all right. Then unfortunately a mistake was discovered ; 
even here a little flaw appeared at the last moment. Certain 
shareholders turned up whom no one knew, nor whence they 
came, nor what was their significance, including a Mr. Putiloff 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE 1 37 

of the Putiloff works, whose presence in the room was 
dubiously welcomed. And also, last of the lot, a holder of 
twenty-five out of sixteen thousand shares — enough to give 
him just one vote — turned up at the General Meeting at 
65 Rue de la Victoire, a gentleman with an imperial whom 
surely we have met elsewhere. And it was then revealed that 
not only did he hold twenty-five shares but on a sudden had 
become the holder of a couple of thousand. The harpoon 
still stuck. 

Now came the crisis, the moment when the whale went mad. 
The French made a general attack on the officials in St. Peters- 
burg. But the fish now clearly felt itself no match for the 
harpooner. Messrs. Schneider abandoned the fight themselves ; 
they turned it over to the French Foreign Office. What hap- 
pened now was a fine piece of diplomatic tactics. The attention 
of St. Petersburg was called to the circumstance that this 
Mr. Basil Zaharoff who was insinuating himself everywhere 
in the national Russian armaments industry without having 
proved his worthiness by the furnishing of corresponding loans, 
was identical with the Mr. Basil Zaharoff who was simultane- 
ously taking a hand in another game, and, in concert with the 
arch-enemy Krupp, was equipping the arch-enemy Japan with 
new warships and guns. Then Mr. Zaharoff is the partner 
of Krupp I Apart altogether from the immorality of such a 
transaction, can they tolerate a state of affairs which would let 
the Krupp firm which had so far been successfully kept out of 
holy Russia participate in the Nikolaieff enterprise under cover 
of Mr. Zaharoff. He must be got rid of. 

You see, it was a good plan and it was correspondingly 
effective. The diplomatists of Paris paid equal attention 
to accomplishing the business of getting rid of him. They 
contrived to get St. Petersburg to send an official letter in 
the name of the Government to the Nikolaieff works to 
the effect that it had now been resolved that only national 
Russian firms would participate in naval construction. But 



138 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

Nikolaieff is national French I Thus either the firm can 
from now on receive no orders, not even for a tiny motor- 
boat, or all foreigners, without distinction and including 
Frenchmen, will have to withdraw from the company. The 
result of this ukase was — it was an added bitterness that it 
was on the same day as the Duma voted a full hundred and 
twenty million pounds sterling for the new naval construction 
programme — that an Extraordinary General Meeting of the 
Nikolaieff shipyard company was held, and Mr. Basil Zaharoff, 
with his friend Mr. Putiloff, with Sir Vincent Caillard and Herr 
Robert Wolff were shown the door. And of course the French- 
men as well. But the latter came back again by a neighbouring 
door and meantime had secured different-coloured ribbons 
for their lapels. A good sound piece of work ! Much later 
it became known that a slight accident had befallen the Quai 
d'Orsay in spite of all its precautions. Among the Frenchmen 
who returned by the other door was the Banque d'Outre-Mer 
of Brussels. It was the pleasure, then, of French diplomacy 
to put the Belgians under obligations. But it was soon revealed 
that the shares of the bank were in a majority held not by 
Belgian shareholders but by two other banks, foreign banks I 
the Deutsche Bank and the Disconto Bank of Berlin. So the 
French had driven Mr. Zaharoff out of the company with the 
accusation that he was a partner of the Germans, and the result 
of that action was that they themselves now remained in 
the company as partners of Germans. This little mishap drove 
the whale from Le Creusot to panic. He had talked of the 
devil in the shape of Herr Krupp von Bohlen-Halbach, and 
from now on he saw the devil in every transaction of his 
own, even the slightest. He could see now nothing but Krupp, 
and that was what put harpooner Zaharoff at last in a position 
to deliver the death-stroke. 

But we are not there yet. The position now was that our 
harpooner had been shown the door at the very moment when 
the Duma voted that hundred and twenty millions. If French 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE I 39 

policy was now making progress in Russia, and the halo 
of Mr. Basil Zaharoff's invincibility had been destroyed, 
then the work was done. The unexpected, the unprecedented, 
happened. St. Petersburg began to make trouble over the 
acceptance of a big consignment of Zaharoff's guns and to 
discover that the fine goods from Sheffield were not as good 
as they ought to be. We have come now to 191 2, and once 
again we are at a cheery little war in the Balkans, in Zaharoff's 
own domain. But this was not all. The Paris paper Crapouillot 
came out with a special issue called "les marchands de canon," 
in which this sentence can be found : 

During the Balkan War Zaharoff armed both parties ; he 
supported Greece against Turkey, Turkey against Serbia, and 
a year after, Serbia against Austria. 

In a word, it was Zaharoff's own domain. And here im- 
mediately after the expulsion from Nikolaieff, immediately 
after the difficulties over the consignment of guns in St. Peters- 
burg, he had to realize that even in the Balkans people could 
cross his path. Who ? The new obstinate competitor who 
lowers prices in all the small States, who is sufficiently familiar 
with the Balkans, who can press along with Zaharoff's agents 
up all the backstairs of Ministries is Skoda in Pilsen, and behind 
Skoda looms the shadow and the purse of M. Schneider from 
Le Creusot. What more does one want ? Mr. Zaharoff had sent 
in a little bill in St. Petersburg. But here let us commit another 
indiscretion, print another private letter and get authentic 
information. The writer is Mr. Arthur Raffalowitsch, formerly 
financial attache in the Imperial Russian Embassy in Paris ; 
the recipient was the Russian Minister Davidoff : 

I have met Mr. Z. He complains of the difficulties he is 
having to encounter in getting the bill for 1,500,000 roubles 
put through the Admiralty. 

And difficulties like these had never been made in St. Peters- 
burg before for Mr. Zaharoff I There was no doubt about it ; 



I40 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

France had taken the offensive. In that year, 191 2, there was 
not much in Mr. ZaharofPs influence in Russia. France was 
making progress. 

But what Raffalowitsch has to say later is even more im- 
portant than that : 

Zaharoff thinks that it will take three or four years to build 
armoured cruisers on the Black Sea in sufficient strength to 
overawe Turkey. That so far nothing has been pushed on. That 
Russian factories and banks concern themselves more with the 
bourse than with anything else. 

Mr. Raffalowitsch showed himself pretty acute for he thus 
concludes : 

Z. must have been a little disillusioned here. 

The disillusion we already know. But the financial attache" 
and surely the Minister should have known that people who 
deal with Mr. Zaharoff should have intelligent ears. He was 
not complaining of the moral lapses of the Russian banks ; 
he was neither a censor nor a moralist. And he did not trouble 
about the war strength of the Turkish cruisers, or, if he did, 
there is more than one meaning to that, and that was worth 
considering, as is all that Mr. Zaharoff says or does or doesn't. 
Might there not be a threat here ? 

There was a threat. It was a preliminary to the counter- 
attack. That Zaharoff scarcely made an attempt to restore the 
honour of the guns maligned in St. Petersburg, that he simply 
shipped them again and sent them off on their travels south, 
this time to Italy, where, fortunately, he controlled a national 
industry, Vickers-Terni, which, having made slight modifi- 
cations, duly delivered them to national Italy for the national 
crusade against the Turks — that must have given the old 
Russian friends who knew Zaharoff furiously to think. Clearly 
he is withdrawing from Russia ; Russia has lost favour in his 
sight. What did the latter say ? 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE 141 

To build armoured cruisers on the Black Sea in sufficient 
strength to overawe Turkey. 

The warning he gave was not understood. A few months 
later the following telegram from Constantinople appeared 
in the Koelnische Zeitung : 

Between the Turkish Government and the English Vickers 
Company an agreement has been signed which in many ways 
is of tne greatest interest. By this agreement the English firm 
is founding a Sociiti Imperiak Ottomane, Compagnie interessie des 
constructions maritimes de Docks et Arsenaux. The shares are not 
negotiable and can be ceded only with the consent of the other 
signatory to the agreement. Should the revenue of the company 
not be enough for the payment of interest and the amortization 
of the capital, deficits will be covered by the revenues from 
taxation of the Province of Sivas. The administration of the 
Ottoman Debt will be entrusted with the collection of these 
taxes. The new company has a monopoly of orders from the 
Turkish Navy. The company undertakes to renovate entirely 
the arsenals at the Golden Horn and at Ismid, to build floating 
docks to hold tonnage of 32,000, and to build at Ismid a school, 
houses for workers and officials, and a mosque. 

What has happened is clear. Mr. ZaharofF has made good 
his threat and has gone abroad — to the arch-enemy. Now he 
proposes to build Turkish cruisers — against Nikolaieff, from 
which he was ejected 1 And not only cruisers but the whole 
Turkish fleet is his ; he has a monopoly. And he is guaranteed 
that there will be other orders. And if there are no profits 
then he is endowed with the tax-revenue of the Province of 
Sivas. And who is to guarantee that these revenues will be 
duly collected ? The administration of the Ottoman Debt. 
A Turkish administration ? By no means. There is no need 
to be anxious for Mr. ZaharofT. The president of the council 
for the administration of the Ottoman Debt is an old friend. 
None other than Sir Vincent Caillard, who is also a member of 



142 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

the Board of Vickers, and who in company with his friend 
Zaharoff has just been ejected from Nikolaieff. Our anxiety 
for him can be still further relieved. "The shares can be 
ceded only with the consent of the signatory of the agreement." 
Mr. Zaharoff knows how to protect himself against the sort of 
coup that he carried out in Le Creusot, St. Petersburg, Reval, 
and Nikolaieff. Do not let anyone say that the wolf makes a 
bad shepherd ; he never shares possession of the sheep. But 
the most edifying part of the report in the Koelnische Zeitmg is 
that not only does Mr. Zaharoff cast his cannon in Turkey and 
do his business there, but he also builds a mosque, a house of 
God. There is symbolical value in this. And it may serve as 
another illustration of the combination of ethics and business 
if I print here two short letters from the archives of the Krupp 
firm in Essen — which are apparently not carefully enough 
closed to the eyes of the profane — although they have nothing 
to do with the life of Zaharoff. Two years before the outbreak 
of the Franco-Prussian War this authentic German firm 
wrote this letter : 

Steelcasting Works Friedrich Krupp 

Essen, April 29, 1868 

To His Majesty Napoleon in, Emperor of the French. 

Emboldened by the interest which Your Gracious Majesty 
has shown in a humble industrialist and the happy results of his 
efforts and unexampled sacrifices, I venture once again to 
approach Your Gracious Majesty with the request that you 
would honour me by accepting the enclosed atlas. It contains 
a collection of drawings of various things made in my work- 
shops. I also express the hope that the last four pages on which 
cast-steel cannon are illustrated, such as I have made for 
various noble Governments in Europe, will for a moment 
attract the attention of Your Majesty and enable you to pardon 
my boldness. With the deepest respect and the greatest 
admiration. 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE 1 43 

And back came the answer. 

The Emperor has received the atlas with much interest, and 
His Majesty has given the order to thank you for sending it 
and to let you know that His Majesty earnestly wishes success 
and expansion to an industry which has as its object to confer 
notable benefits on mankind. 

They always have untroubled consciences 1 And that was 
written at the time when Mr. Zaharoff was living through 
that "gap" in his life between 1865 and 1870, perhaps in 
Wilkomir, perhaps elsewhere. 

But we are off the track again. It is more profitable to give 
here an extract from an article in the Koelnische Zeitung, which 
comments on the item of news which we quoted : 

This English concession is far more significant than the 
engaging of a German military mission. Not only do the 
English have de facto control of the Turkish fleet ; they have 
now in their hands the entire output of Turkey's yards and 
arsenals. Thus they are in complete control of the Turkish 
Navy. What in comparison with that is the fact that a German 
general is in command of a Turkish army corps ? The Turkish 
shipping company Machsusseh has also a shareholding in the 
new company ; its directors are German. 

We may note that this time the Germans are in by way of 
a change. That by way of parenthesis. Odysseus has now come 
home again to his native shores. As always in his career, 
that means he is preparing to conquer another flight ; he is 
beginning on the next spiral of the staircase. If he gets still 
higher, then, as the crowning achievement, we are due to hear 
after the duets and trios a symphony for full orchestra. We 
shall see what happens. We are now in 191 3 ; we have still a 
period for reflection. 

The nervousness which was caused in Germany by this 
coup of Mr. Zaharoff was nothing to the nervousness caused 
in France. This — and the next. Mr. Zaharoff had executed 



144 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

a volte-face, and was back where he had started. One blow 
was enough. At last the slow intelligences in St. Petersburg 
had grasped the nature of the threat. If Zaharoff had gone 
over to the Turks, that meant Turkey was a Great Power. 
And so the lords of St. Petersburg willingly went to Canossa. 
Cost what it might, they had to win back Zaharoff for Russia. 
What was this Schneider firm in Le Creusot ? Flirting with it 
had been a mistake ; it has, as was now evident, been too 
expensive. A new wind began to blow over St. Petersburg. 
The lords of St. Petersburg went to Canossa so hurriedly 
that, still in 191 3, only two or three weeks after Zaharoff's 
blow in Turkey, the news appeared in the Paris papers — the 
Information of April 24th : 

VICKERS AND LE CREUSOT IN RUSSIA 
From our Special Correspondent 

St. Petersburg. 

In well-informed financial circles it is believed that the 
resolution of the Council of Ministers published yesterday 
regarding the erection of a private cannon factory at Zaritsyn 
is a victory for the Vickers firm. Vickers, it is said, intended to 
demand consent to the erection of a private cannon factory 
even at the time when Le Creusot was supporting projects 
which encountered the opposition of the Government. While 
the representatives of Le Creusot turned their efforts in a 
direction which could not but lead to failure, the better 
informed Vickers firm concentrated on getting a new factory 
put through and assuring orders for it. That none of the 
causes of the unfavourable position in which Le Creusot now 
is with regard to their English competitor be left unknown, the 
painful impression must be indicated which 

And so on. Soon the details of the story were learned. The new 
works were to be bigger than any hitherto seen in Russia. 
They would stretch along over two miles of the bank of the 
Volga ; the heaviest guns, gun turrets, armoured plates, shells 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE 145 

— but let us read what a French source says, one of our 
authorities, Menev£e, the editor of the Documents politiques : 

This failure of Le Creusot was to be driven home still more 
sharply. In September of the same year the Russian Govern- 
ment gave the Vickers firm what was virtually a monopoly 
for the manufacture of guns, while they guaranteed to the 
factory orders worth at least ten million roubles annually. It 
was Major-General Serguieff and Captain Gavriloff who dealt 
with Vickers as Russia's representatives. The reasons for this 
close connection between the Russian Government and the 
Vickers firm are the more mysterious as Vickers' prices were 
higher than Le Creusot's. 

But to us who have studied that little guide for armament 
manufacturers, the circumstance that Vickers gets the business 
although its prices are higher is not so mysterious as it was 
to M. Menevee. Have you realized all the significance of that 
double coup of Zaharoff ? In 191 2 he was squeezed out of a 
shipyard company in Russia. He avenged himself, while getting 
a monopoly for the construction of the Turkish fleet, and there- 
by so terrified the Russians that they at once gave him a 
monopoly of all Russian artillery orders. That was a master- 
piece, a super-Tatavla feat transplanted into the domain of 
politics. This is the point at which the new ascent on the 
staircase begins. It is not only a firm in Le Creusot that has 
been beaten ; it is the Quai d'Orsay, it is France. 

Was France nervous ? It was no longer a case of nervousness; 
it was one of panic. Any straw was clutched at without reason, 
without plan. The best policy seemed to be to copy this 
devilish Mr. Zaharoff and try to follow in his footsteps. Had 
he gone to Constantinople and got a monopoly for the fleet ? 
Then France would give the Turks armaments credits ; France 
would invite the Turkish purchasers of guns to Le Creusot. 
The purchasers bought, even the Minister of Marine in 
person. Only all that took a month or two, and then it was 
just a little late. What did Paul Faure say in his speech to the 



146 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

Chamber ? He said it, alas I only in February 1932, when we 
knew all about it : 

Turkey has had fifteen loans, of which thirteen are to-day 
unrepaid. And with that last of these French loans Turkey 
financed her war against France. I have among my documents 
a photograph which shows the Turkish Minister of Marine 
inspecting the works at Le Creusot, being conducted over 
them by the proprietors who showed him the very last word 
in what had been invented in armaments. The Turk gave his 
orders. But the war came too quickly. A few days later it broke 
out and the wretched Minister could not take his purchases 
away with him. But because he had French money in his pocket 
he looked in at Krupp in Essen on his way home and bought 
there, and at Skoda in Pilsen and bought there — guns which 
were then sent to the Eastern Front. 

But that is to anticipate. At present we are in full peace, 
at the turn of the year 1913-1914. They could have spared 
themselves getting into a panic in France — at least so far 
as the panic was over the national sanctuary in Le Creusot. 
After the successful harpooning of the whale, and after the 
successful salvage of the Turkish booty, Mr. Zaharoff, of course 
again arranged things. If he had been compelled to bring 
Messrs. Schneider to their knees, was that any reason why he 
should forget that he was still an accomplice in their enter- 
prises ? Their stable companion — or to use the word more 
usually employed in industrialist circles — their partner ? At 
the end of 191 3 Mr. Basil Zaharoff was once again gentle as 
a lamb and a convinced Frenchman. The intention to make 
this conversion could have been expected months ago by any- 
one who knew what we know to-day, even before the mind had 
been laid in Zaritzyn. Now he endowed — no, it was not a 
seaman's home this time — a chair of aviation in the University 
of Paris. We may remember that he had done the same thing 
two years earlier in St. Petersburg and thereby, or rather as a 
result of the newspaper report of it, had had Mr. Haim Manele- 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE 1 47 

witsch Sahar from Wilkomir on his track. Whenever Sir Basil 
endowed anything, he got promotion in the Legion of Honour ; 
we know that. He had been a chevalier since 1908 ; now in 
191 3 he became an officer. This time naturally it was not the 
Minister of Marine, but the Minister for Education and Fine 
Arts who suggested the promotion. Such a distinction, as 
we may deduce, will end either in Mr. Basil Zaharoff buying 
a paper in France or in having a reconciliation with Le Creusot, 
or both. Do you wish further indication ? In a newspaper 
which is not quite unknown to us, the Excelsior, which is 
the property of the. Quotidiens illustris, which in its turn belongs 
to Mr. Zaharoff, we find an interview with Mr. Francis Barker, 
who is a member of the Vickers firm. He declares that no greater 
wrong can be done to the firm of Vickers than to think that 
its business activities in Russia imply any hostility to France. 
Why, the contrary is true, as we shall hear : 

In the Zaritzyn business French interests, contrary to what 
has been alleged, were carefully safeguarded. The Russian 
banks and the Vickers firm recognized the technical value of 
the Deport patent for long-range guns and have by agreement 
secured the licence for Russia. And as that licence is the 
property of the foundry of Chatillon-Commantry, that French 
company participated in all the orders which came to the new 
Zaritzyn factory. 

If there is still anyone who is not now convinced that 
Mr. Basil Zaharoff and the Vickers firm are truly friendly to 
France, there is no help for him. But we seem to sense that 
somewhere a mine has been laid. We seem to smell a fuse 
burning. And we wait for the explosion. 

It came almost at once, on January 27, 1914. Let us quote 
documents from the Echo de Paris of that date : 

Petersburg. According to rumour, the Putiloff works in 
St. Petersburg have been bought by Krupp. If the rumour is 
confirmed there will be considerable uneasiness in France. 



148 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

From The Times : 

Paris, January 28th (from our own correspondent). No 
small excitement was caused in Paris to-day by a St. Petersburg 
telegram in the Echo de Paris stating that the Putiloff arms 
factory had been bought by Krupps. It is well known that the 
Russian Government has adopted the French artillery models 
and most of the Russian guns have been constructed at the 
Putiloff factory with the assistance of the great French firm 
of Schneider at Le Creusot and of French workmen supplied 
by that firm. 

The announcement brought down a swarm of interviewers 
upon the offices of the company where no information concern- 
ing the telegram had been received, but where it was admitted 
that the news if confirmed would be very serious, in view of 
the fact that the Putiloff factory possessed the secrets of the 
French arms manufacture. 

Thus panic in Paris. But perhaps it is premature. Two messages 
from The Times : 

Berlin, January 28th (from our own correspondent). The 
report of the purchase of the Putiloff works is denied by the 
newspapers. 

St. Petersburg, January 28th. A rumour is circulating in 
the capital and is attracting some attention in the home and 
foreign Press. It is to the effect that Krupps have bought the 
Putiloff works here. We are able to state from information 
received from official sources that this report has not a word of 
truth in it. 

Heaven be praised I Now we can be reassured. Or is that 
premature, too ? What is this that Reuter telegraphs from St. 
Petersburg ? 

. . . this rather is the truer version. The Council of Ministers 
decided for the foundation of a private Russian company with 
the co-operation of Vickers. As the reason for the decision it is 
explained that of the great European armaments firms Vickers 
has the greatest experience. 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE I 49 

Stop. What has the firm of Vickers to do with this affair ? 
Have we not made Mr. Zaharoff an officer of the Legion 
of Honour ? Surely he won't, with the arch-enemy 

Back to Paris once again. Back to the Excelsior. Back to 
Mr. Francis Barker : 

I say most emphatically that the Vickers company has 
nothing at all to do with the Putiloff business. In Russia it has 
no relations with the Krupp firm and has never had any inten- 
tion of combining its interests with that firm. 

Then at least we can be reassured of the immaculacy of 
Mr. Zaharoff's business methods. Krupp knows nothing of 
Putiloff ; Vickers knows nothing of Krupp ; Schneider, who 
is the most aggrieved, buries himself in silence and gets the 
sympathy of the nation. But stop again. Let us make inquiry 
in Le Creusot itself : 

On inquiry at the Schneider offices I learn that negotiations 
actually are going on in St. Petersburg — but not concerning 
the purchase of the Putiloff works by Krupp, but only regard- 
ing an increase in its capital with the help of Krupp and the 
Deutsche Bank. Obviously any such transaction would bring 
the Putiloff works under the control of the Krupp firm and 
other German companies. 

Finally, deo gratias, it all chimes in fairly well if we listen 
attentively. There is no question of a purchase by Krupp of 
the Putiloff works, but only an increase of capital. Thus there 
was still a chance for Paris to do something. There might 
still be some saving and patriotic people left in Perpignan 

But this is getting a tiresome business. We can get no more 
information from the Paris newspapers, so we may be well 
advised to turn to the reminiscences of that anonymous 
editor-in-chief from Paris, which were published in the 
Berlin Deutsche Rundschau in 1925. Does he know of the inci- 
dent ? He does : 



I jo zaharoff: the armaments king 

The telegram in the Echo de Paris actually did cause great 
disquiet. The public, uninformed and simple as usual, thought 
that the secrets of French gun construction had fallen into the 
hands of the Prussians. The truth was that there were no 
secrets, for the French factories had been delivering the 7 5 -mm. 
guns for a long time to Italy — a member of the Triple Alliance 
— and to Bulgaria. But it was necessary to add fuel to the fires 
of political incitement, and nothing is so useful for the stirring 
up of public opinion as talk of secrets and their betrayal. 

There could be no question of preserving the secret of the 
7 5 -mm. gun, for the whole world knew it ; nor of preventing 
Krupp from getting into Putiloff, for it had been there for a 
long time. The purpose of the news was to bring pressure to 
bear on a group of French banks to loosen their purse-strings 
for patriotic and national reasons. And as these banks showed 
no particular inclination to do so, the spectre of Krupp was 
invoked. 

Here is another tune altogether. To invoke the spectre ? 
Who did the invocation ? Let us investigate further, and quote 
the speech in the French Chamber of M. Albert Thomas, 
later Minister of Munitions and Director of the International 
Labour Office : 

But what especially attracted attention was the fact that at 
the very moment when these firms were acting as if they were 
opponents, when Vickers seemed to be in deadly strife with 
Le Creusot and when we were ready to get excited over such 
damaging of our interests by our allies, at that very moment 
the apparently hostile firms had long ago come to an agreement 
and were working into each other's hands. 

And then comes this sentence 

The Russian newspapers have named Mr. Basil Zaharoff as 
the most active agent, the most energetic standard-bearer, of 
the Vickers company, as the most feared rival of Le Creusot. 

That is an historic moment in our biography. It is the 
first time that the gentleman with the imperial was named 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE IJI 

from the tribune of the French Chamber. It won't be the 
last time. 

So this was a case of Mr. ZaharofF again. And who were 
his accomplices ? We can get some information on that point 
from a pamphlet, published by that energetic and watchful 
body the Union of Democratic Control in London, called 
The Secret International, where we shall find the story of the 
end of this business : 

The false report is said to have been provoked by RafFalo- 
witsch in collusion with SuchomlinofF, the Russian Minister of 
War, after an understanding had been arrived at with ZaharofF. 
There was immediate panic in England, France, and Germany, 
and excitement in Paris was only allayed when subsequently 
the news was sent through from St. Petersburg that the Putiloff 
works required another £2,000,000 and would be pleased if 
they could obtain it from Schneider-Creusot. Schneider-Creusot 
accordingly put the required capital at the disposal of Putiloff 
and at the same time a new Russian loan of £25,000,000 was 
raised in France. Vickers, Ltd., were able to obtain their share, 
and The Times Paris correspondent was able to announce 
that during the preceding months orders to the amount of 
£6,500,000 had gone to Great Britain. 

To which we may add that this is not the first time we have 
met the Mr. Raffalowitsch here mentioned. He is our old 
friend, the former attachd in the Russian Embassy in Paris, 
and an old friend of Basil ZaharofF, and earlier we printed 
his letter to the Minister DavidofF. He is known not only to 
us but also to that anonymous Paris editor whom we have 
already quoted. He is able to tell us that this Mr. RafFalowitsch 
had, in the years before the war, undertaken, with sacks of 
gold, the biggest and most unscrupulous campaign of corrup- 
tion that has ever been known in the whole history of the 
Press. Thus a professional corrupter of the Press, His Excellency 
the War Minister of Russia and Mr. ZaharofF — it all tallies. 
We have here only another application of ZaharofF's "prin- 



I J 2 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

ciple of incitement," but on a large, a very large, scale, and at 
a difficult hour. He has beaten Le Creusot in Russia and thus 
reduced his share of their profits ; now he proceeds to increase 
it again. With whose money ? With the money of humble 
men of Perpignan. And for whom does he get the money ? 
For Russia. A good piece of business for him, for he gets a 
commission in the shape of orders amounting to six and a 
half million pounds. The ambitious young man who in 1877 
sold to his Greek fatherland the first inefficient submarine, 
has by 1914 grown to be the biggest shark that ever swam 
the armament seas. 

But we have not quite cleared up the position of the two 
other armament firms. Did Schneider know all about it all 
along ? We may believe so after what we have heard. But 
Krupp ? Krupp obviously was brought into the affair by 
Zaharoff only to scare the little French provincials. Accordingly 
there still remains something that needs to be explained. 
Once again we return circumspectly to Russia. There the 
archives have been opened, and much of their contents been 
published, much which is little known, or even completely 
unknown to people in the Western countries. In an official 
Communist periodical called the Weekly of the Executive 
Committee of the Communist International we find an article 
by Leonid called "The Policy of Armaments-Capital" this 
passage : 

To every political combination which Vickers organized in 
the military sphere it created another combination in opposi- 
tion. In the closest connection with Vickers and in the same 
manner Schneider-Creusot and Krupp conducted their business. 
Two years before the World War Krupp, Schneider, and Blohm 
& Voss — the leading German naval shipyard — organized a 
syndicate to get control of the Russian Putiloff works, which 
they finally succeeded in doing after an understanding with 
Vickers-Armstrong. Simultaneously with this reconciliation 
of the German-French-Russian armaments capitalists began 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE I 53 

the preparations for the German-French-Russian war. While 
Poincare" was in St. Petersburg to place France's signature to 
the war-treaty against Germany, Krupp and Creusot signed 
an agreement by which both parties pledged themselves to 
come to an understanding respecting the division of orders 
for armaments which had prodigiously increased, and not to 
compete against each other. More, the French company pledged 
itself to support Krupp against any other German competitor ; 
if, for instance, the German Ehrhardt company submitted a 
lower tender than Krupp, then Schneider must underbid 
Ehrhardt, and even at a loss get hold of the order. 

That completes the picture. In the armaments industry there 
are no losers. The only loser was the humble citizen of 
Perpignan who never got his money back. There was also 
another loser — France. 

How did France hit back ? How far was she on her guard ? 
How did the people in the Quai d'Orsay judge what was 
happening ? The best evidence is in the Journal officiel. There 
under date July 31st — the day on which Jean Jaures was 
murdered — you may read : "Legion of Honour. To be 
Commander — Monsieur Basil ZaharofF." And as reason for 
this laconic statement — "services exceptionnels." 

Thus there broke out No, not yet ; we don't let it break 

out yet. We must first look again at the Vickers company, 
which under Basil ZaharofF's guidance has so successfully 
expanded. What was its position on that 31st of July, 1914? 

Naturally the factories of the original firm are in England. 
Then there are two shipyards whose acquaintance we have 
made already — Barrow, whose manager did business with 
Admiral Fuji, and Beardmore, under cover of which Sir Basil 
laid his ambush in Reval. But also — but there is no need to 
burden these pages with more names. 

In Italy ? We already know of Vickers-Terni. The new 
partners thus belong to the Triple Alliance. Also we add 



154 zaharoff: the armaments king 

that similar concerns were founded in Canada, in Spain, 
and in Japan. They need not detain us. More interesting is 
the position in France. According to Otto Lehmann-Russ- 
bueldt, who drew his information from the Moscow archives : 

Zaharoff in 1914 controlled the French firms of Creusot, the 
steelworks of Henecourt, the Chatillon-Commantry with a 
total capital of three hundred and twenty million marks. 

We can extend his information a little ; Mr. Zaharoff 's peace- 
ful invasion of France had been conducted with rather more 
energy than that would suggest. In the Austrian port of Fiume 
there is the Whitehead torpedo factory which, as we learn from 
our French authority, Menevee, is "the Austrian branch of 
Vickers" ; for its part the Whitehead concern in Fiume, 
in conjunction with the mother firm Vickers, founded just 
before the war a French branch in Saint-Tropez, and on the 
Board of Directors sits Mr. Zaharoff. He holds two shares ; 
we know his modesty. And at the same time Mr. Zaharoff 
bobs up on the Boards of the French company "Le Nickel," 
which owns the nickel deposits in New Caledonia and is 
controlled by Rothschilds : 

Our choice fell on Mr. Basil Zaharoff who, because of his 
great experience and his many connections with industry, will 
be a most valuable acquisition to our company. 

We can understand the conviction of the "Le Nickel's" 
Board, and we share it. In Turkey there are the shipyards at 
Ismid, in which Turks and Germans are partners. In Russia 
there are the Reval yards with the French as partners ; the big 
factory at Zaritzyn ; two others with whose names we will not 
trouble the reader, and then there is the situation in the Putiloff 
works with Schneider on the one hand and Krupp on the other 
as partners. (What did Mr. Francis Barker say in that interview 
which he gave to the Excelsior ? : 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE 1 5 5 

I say most emphatically that the Vickers company has 
absolutely nothing to do with the Putiloff affair.) 

There remains only the position in Germany itself, the 
Loewe-Gontard connection. The concern as a whole was in 
good trim and it would be a good thing to be on its Board. 

But who really was beside him on these boards on July 31, 
1914, the day before the World War broke out. In England 
there were among the chief shareholders of Vickers Ltd. : 

4 dukes and marquises 
jo viscounts and barons 

20 knights 

3 members of Parliament 

21 officers 

6 journalists 

and among those who were shareholders of some branch of 
the combine at different dates were taxicabmen, municipal 
employees, printers, stationmasters, foundrymen, shoemakers, 
woolpickers, hotel employees, druggists, farmers, policemen, 
teachers, fishmongers, sea-captains, an air vice-marshal, a 
civil servant in the Foreign Office, a professor of music, 
doctors, and in all of them a remarkably high percentage of 
clergymen. 

Further But let us hear more about the shareholders 

from the speech in Parliament delivered by Philip Snowden 
in March 1914 : 

Now who are the shareholders ? It would be too long for 
me to give more than a very short selection from this list, but 
I find than hon. members of this House are very largely con- 
cerned. Indeed, it would be impossible to throw a stone on 
the benches opposite without hitting a member who is a share- 
holder in one or other of these firms. The hon. member for the 
Osgoldcross division of Yorkshire — I congratulate him on his 
election last week as Hon. President of the Free Church Council 



1 5 6 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

— is the great imperialist. I find that he is the holder of 3,200 
shares in John Brown's and 2,100 shares in Cammell Laird's. 
Another of the members for Sheffield figures in practically 
every list, as he figures in every debate in this House when 
there is a possibility of more money being spent on arms 
and ships. 

It may serve to console us that on that 31st of July, 
1 9 14, Mr. Basil Zaharoff did not stand alone in the world ; 
he had a few partners. Those with him, including politicians 
and officers of high rank, were during the next four years 
able to share in the enterprises captured abroad by the masterly 
achievements of "the Zaharoff system." But perhaps in March 
191 4 Viscount Snowden was seeing only bogymen, that all 
this was an isolated phenomenon, and that things were not 
really so bad. Let us quote, then, a few lines from people who 
are not members of Viscount Snowden's party. Let us go east 
again to the statistics of the Weekly of the Executive Committee 
of the Communist International. There you will find : 

The brilliant collaboration of armaments-capital and the 
Governments with the united aim of a world war was founded 
on the narrowest basis of private capital, even on the identity 
of the two powers. In every land the armaments firms were all- 
powerful with the heads of the navy and then with the general 
staff diplomacy and the semi-official military associations. 

In England : The director of construction and the chief 
technical adviser at the Admiralty from 1912 to 1923, Sir Eustace 
Tennyson-d'Eyncourt, is to-day consulting naval architect 
and engineer and adviser to Vickers-Armstrong. Lord South- 
borough, technical adviser, etc., was from 1912 to 1917 
Qvil Lord of the Admiralty. General Lyttelton was Chief 
of the General Staff, and he had a brother who also was a 
director of Armstrongs. Lord Sydenham and Admiral Ottley, 
both Armstrong directors, were both secretaries of the Com- 
mittee of Imperial Defence, the highest military organization 
of the British Empire, which actually determines, the whole 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE I 57 

world-policy of England. In the National Service League, 
the greatest of the militarist associations, were eight presidents 
and directors of English armament firms. On the committee 
of the Navy League were four men who were joint owners in 
Italian, Austrian, and Russian firms constructing war material. 
Just as close was the connection with the British Foreign Office. 
The Economist had to admit (1913-14) that the Foreign Office 
in the course of its diplomatic labours saw to it that Vickers 
and Armstrongs got orders for munitions of war. The biggest 
English Bankers (Rothschild, Cassel, etc.) made similar con- 
ditions when they were granting loans to foreign Governments. 

In France : Schneider-Creusot, who produced about 60 per 
cent, of the total munitions output of France, nominated the 
Ministers of Marine, were all-powerful in the Army Commis- 
sion of the Chamber and had in their own service two 
admirals — and later a third — and a brother of Clemenceau. 

In Russia : The whole military hierarchy of Czarism was 
honeycombed from top to bottom with agents of armaments 
firms. As early as the days of the Russo-Japanese War, Basil 
ZaharofF, the representative of Vickers, through the medium 
of General Kuropatkin and other army leaders, secured very 
large orders for weapons and munitions. Later it was the 
notorious Dmitri Rubinstein, "Rasputin's banker," who 
secured the order for Schneider-Creusot for Russia's field 
artillery. 

In Germany : The armour-plate king, Stumm, was all- 
powerful in the Foreign Office when a clique of his relatives, 
State Secretary Wilhelm von Stumm and State Secretary von 
Kuehlmann, Counsellor of Legation Ferdinand von Stumm, 
and Departmental Chief Karl von Schubert held key positions. 
The Post, extremely Chauvinist and always inciting to war, 
was owned by the Stumm concern. And in that same Stumm 
concern sat as a sort of superintendent, the French Secretary of 
Legation, Count de Waldner. 

That all rings true. But should we trust these Communists 
without more ado ? The matter is much too important ; we 
must be really convinced. So let us choose at random one 



158 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

of these daughter firms, for instance, the Societe" franchise de 
Torpilles Whitehead, which we have heard about before, and 
let us see the original list of shareholders : 

The Armstrong Whitworth Company . . . . 180 

Mr. Francis Henry Barker, London (Vickers) . . 2 

Vickers Ltd., London . . . . . . . . . 178 

Frau Leopoldine Hoyos (wife of Graf von Plessen- 

Cronsten, German Minister) . . . . . . 14 

Frau Liliane Hoyos (wife of Graf Adolf von Reventlow- 

Criminil) . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 

Mr. James Beeton Whitehead, British Minister . . 78 
Frau Agathe-Maria Gubertine Whitehead (wife of Herr 

von Trapp, Austrian naval lieutenant) . . . . 15 
Frau Margarethe von Bismarck (widow of Prince 

Herbert von Bismarck, of Friedrichsruhe, near 

Hamburg) . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 

The French Rear-Admiral Aubert . . . . . . 2 

Mr. Basil Zaharoff . . . . . . . . . . 2 

Thus Mr. Basil Zaharoff is a partner with an English Minister, 
the wife of a German Minister, a French rear-admiral, the 
wife of an Austrian naval officer, a member of the "Pan- 
German" family of Reventlow — and the widow of Herbert 
von Bismarck, daughter-in-law of the Iron Chancellor. All 
these met in unity in France to manufacture French torpedoes I 
This is confusion itself. 

And we feel distinctly anxious whether Mr. Basil Zaharoff 
can produce enough money for so many proteges. Has he 
to let his own family starve ? We need not be over-anxious. 
In the case of the parent company, Vickers, alone, in one year 
the assets rose more than a million and a half pounds, the 
dividends paid were 12^ per cent., and the capital in the last 
two years was raised to practically two million pounds. 
Net profits ? We can hear about these from that speech by 
Viscount Snowden. 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE 1 59 

I find in the year before the scare Messrs. Vickers' profits 
amounting to £424,000. Two years after that they were nearly 
double that amount. Every year since the success of their 
intrigue their profits have gone up — £474,000, £544,000, 
£745,000, £872,000. 

and he went on : 

What is the obstacle in the way of better understanding ? 
Lord Welby, who has held the highest and most responsible 
posts as a permanent civil servant in this country was speaking 
on this question a few weeks ago, and he said : "We are in 
the hands of an organization of crooks. They are politicians, 
generals, manufacturers of armaments, and journalists. All of 
them are anxious for unlimited expenditure, and go on 
inventing scares to terrify Ministers of the Crown." 

It is almost intolerable to hear such malice towards so brilliant 
a business success. Much better to listen to Mr. Douglas 
Vickers himself, who must know the facts. This is what he said 
in a speech : 

There were people who maintained that armaments should 
be taken out of private hands, and who believed old stories 
about the influence which armaments firms were said to have 
exercised in the past in the interests of war. There was not a 
shadow of truth in such stories. 

This declaration from so authoritative a source can hardly 
fail to reassure us completely. But yet there is a passage in 
that English pamphlet The Secret International : 

The files at Somerset House show that in the summer of 
1914 there was a feverish activity to deal in armament shares, 
and with the coming of the war we find a number of well- 
informed people, certain prominent bankers and Sir Basil 
Zaharoff himself, increasing their holdings. Amongst the 
shareholders at that time were various important people 
closely associated with the Government. 



l6o ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

And once again let us quote Viscount Snowden : 

Whether it be an Austrian, German, or British ship to sink 
in battle, the directors and stockholders of the munitions firms 
can be counted upon to applaud. They will throw their hats in 
the air and cry : "More ships 1 More profits I More dividends !" 

And from a commentary on this speech of Snowden in the 
Arms and Explosives Journal, the organ of the industry : 

Some people never will understand business. 

And so broke out No, not yet. One must not think 

that humanity took no measures against this conspiracy. 
Here is the same Mr. G. H. Perris who, a month or two 
before that 31st of July, 1914, when Mr. Basil Zaharoff was 
again in search of honours, delivered a speech at the World 
Peace Conference in The Hague in which he disclosed, so far 
as he then knew them, the methods of the various Mr. 
Zaharoffs : 

for whom the English poet Kipling has coined the description 
"half a devil and half a child." 

And there came to him a vision and he cried : 

Many here know the famous painting : "The Retreat from 
Russia." Another picture takes shape before my eyes. There 
it is not the conquered legions of Napoleon who are struggling 
in the snow ; there I see the army of the toilers in this world 
defeated as always, fighting as always for the fruit of their toil 
and a juster fate. It seemed to me that I passed through the 
masses of the desperate on the battlefield of the daily struggle 
for existence. And I came to the rearguard and saw — just as 
in that picture — the shadowy shapes of the Cossacks and among 
them, bent on robbing the dead and dying, the plunderers 
of corpses who follow on the heels of any retreating army. I 
went closer to them. And to my astonishment I saw that they 
were not the jackals that poets and historians have pictured 
them. Nay, these were no ordinary thieves. And among them 



DEAD MEN OVERTURE l6l 

I saw one who was an honourable English gentleman who 
wore the Grand Cross of the Bath and, as it had to be, the 
Order of Jesus Christ of Portugal. 1 

The report of the session adds this : "This resolution was 
adopted unanimously." 

And so at last — the war broke out. 

1 G. H. Perris, The War Traders (report of the Hague Conference). 



in 

ALMOST A MYTHOLOGICAL FIGURE 

Now we come to the deeds and adventures of Mr. Basil 
Zaharoff, who created the elaborate machinery which we 
have described, during the years 1914 to 1918. Perhaps the 
best thing to do is to begin with the accomplishments of the 
machinery itself, even if all that happened was largely due to 
the fact that the machine slipped out of Mr. ZaharofPs hands, 
became independent, took on life of its own, and could no 
longer be controlled. 

During the years 19 14 to 1918 the Vickers company 
delivered : 

4 battleships 
3 armed cruisers 
53 submarines 
62 light ships 
3 auxiliary cruisers 
2,328 heavy naval guns, field guns, and howitzers up to a 
calibre of 45 cm. ; and, further, more than 
100,000 machine-guns of the well-known type invented by Sir 

Hiram Maxim 
an unknown quantity of smaller guns 
an unknown number of tons of armour plates, and 

5,500 — let us put it into words — five thousand five hundred 
aeroplanes. 

Even on the basis of peace-time prices that represents a 
prime cost of several hundred millions of pounds. The stated 
net profits of the company alone amounted to thirty-four 
million pounds, or three times its capital, and of that 67 per 
cent, went to Mr. Basil Zaharoff. Later, it was stated that 
the profits of Mr. Zaharoff and his colleagues in England 
should be reckoned at not more than "20 per cent, more 



ALMOST A MYTHOLOGICAL FIGURE 1 63 

than the average net profits of the last two business years 
before the war." But do not let us be anxious for our hero 
on that account, for when Mr. Lloyd George later became 
Minister of Munitions and began to control prices he alleged — 
but let the minister speak for himself : 

The 18-pounder, when the Ministry of Munitions was 
started, cost 22s. 6d. per shell. A system of costing and investi- 
gation was introduced and national factories were set up which 
checked the process, and a shell for which the War Office at 
the time the Ministry was formed cost 22s. 6d. was reduced to 
1 2S., and when you have 8 5 ,000,000 shells that saved £5 ,000,000. 
There was a reduction in the price of all other shells, and there 
was a reduction in the Lewis guns. When we took them in 
hand they cost £165 and we reduced them to £35 each. There 
was a saving of £14,000,000, and through the costing system 
and the checking of the national factories we set up before the 
end of the war there was a saving of £440,000,000. 

These four hundred and forty millions are not the net profits 
of the British armament industry ; they are a deduction from 
its profits, the sum by which the profits were reduced, thanks 
to the activity of the Minister of Munitions. Did he come 
up against the master of the industry, Mr. Zaharoff, in conse- 
quence ? We can be assured on this point, too. The two gentle- 
men found pleasure in each other, and this discovery was 
fateful, even decisive. For Mr. Zaharoff ? No ; for Mr. Lloyd 
George — and almost for England. But there is a good long way 
to go ere we come to that. At the moment deliveries went on, 
and to delight those who like figures we quote the total orders 
of England : 

25,000 guns 
240,000 machine-guns 
4,000,000 rifles 
258,000,000 shells and shrapnel shells 
10,000,000,000 cartridges 



1 64 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

At the beginning of this transaction the total national debt 
of the countries concerned was about £224,000,000 ; after the 
purchases and the acquisition of these guns, rifles, shells, and 
cartridges it was one and a half milliard pounds sterling. 

We have still to mention here some unfortunate incidents, 
or rather minor flaws, in the functioning of Zaharoff's arma- 
ment machine, but these were too slight to disturb either the 
good humour or good conscience of the maker and the officers, 
politicians, and priests who shared in his international com- 
pany. None the less, Turkish guns served by German artillery- 
men which bombarded the English at the Dardanelles had 
been delivered by Mr. ZaharofF. And so far as it is possible to 
deal in the hypothetical in strategy, we must admit that, if 
there had been an inferior Turkish artillery at the Dardanelles, 
the Straits would have fallen, and the fall of the Straits would 
have meant an earlier end to the war, and an earlier end to the 
war would have rendered unnecessary the introduction of 
compulsory service in England, that compulsory service which 
sent to Flanders those small shareholders of Mr. ZaharofF, 
"taxicabmen, municipal employees, printers, station-masters, 
foundrymen, shoemakers." They died there, but their heirs 
remained to share in the increased profits of Mr. Zaharoff's 
factories. In the Narrows a British ship struck a Turkish mine 
and went up in the air ; the mine was "Made in England" I 
But when eleven years later Mr. Arthur Ponsonby, m.p., 
asked Mr. Austen Chamberlain, the Foreign Secretary, about 
this mine of 191 5, and quoted a report of the Daily Chronicle ; 
which said that again an English firm was delivering munitions 
to the Turks, the Foreign Secretary agreed as to the facts, 
but on the other hand declared that it was quite impossible 
that there should be ever again a war between Britain and 
Turkey. (That was what happened in 1926 when the League of 
Nations had decided in the Mosul dispute for Britain and against 
Turkey, and when in Constantinople they were actually begin- 
ing to make earnest preparations for a war with Britain.) 



ALMOST A MYTHOLOGICAL FIGURE 165 

But once more we are straying into the future. Let us go 
back again and study a little more scientifically the offshoots 
of the parent company. What was the position of "Le Nickel," 
the New Caledonian company backed by Rothschild, which, 
as you may remember, co-opted Mr. Zaharoff to its board of 
directors with flattering eulogy? Nickel is to armaments 
manufacturers what bread is to the hungry. Germany has no 
nickel. But it possessed a "metals company" in Frankfort 
whose chief shareholder was Wilhelm n ; another shareholder 
was Herr Krupp. In the years before 19 14 this company bought 
and stocked all the nickel it could get — delivered by "Le 
Nickel," in other words by Mr. Zaharoff and Rothschilds. 
And then the war broke out. Now let us see what the French 
Senator Gaudin de Villaine said in a speech in Parliament in 
January 1917 : 

On October 1, 1914, a Norse three-master loaded 2,500 tons 
of nickel in the harbour of Freisund, New Caledonia, consigned 
to Hamburg and intended for the Krupp works. Krupps had 
paid half the money in advance. The ship was stopped on the 
high seas by the Dupetit-Tbouars and taken to Brest, where it 
was declared a prize by the courts. Then the order came from 
Paris to let the ship go. The local authorities refused. On that 
there came from the Minister fresh instructions confirming the 
order of release. On October 10th the ship resumed its 
voyage. 

What happened then ? Let us go on listening to Monsieur 
Gaudin de Villaine, who, it seems, does not sit on the board 
of any armament company : 

In 191 5, 4,606,834 kilogrammes of raw nickel ore went from 
Noumea without any objection being raised and without that 
most important condition being laid down, a condition made 
obligatory in Canada, that the nickel should be consigned only 
for the use of the Allies. 

2,599,427 kilogrammes went to the United States, which for 
p» 



1 66 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

years had not bought from New Caledonia. They could be 
landed only after a lot of chicanery. 

The "Societd du Nickel" attempted a diversion by trying 
to throw suspicion on its competitor, the "Hauts Fourneaux de 
Noumda," for making mysterious deliveries to the United 
States. 

But it is a mistake to irritate competitors. When one does, 
then things happen like the publication of the following letter 
in the Uberti : 

To the Editor 
Sir, 

As our company is mentioned in your issue of to-day 
in connection with the nickel affair, we have the honour to 
state that not a single kilogramme of nickel from our Caledonian 
field has gone to America except with the provision that it is 
destined for France or one of her Allies. 

We are the only producers who are completely independent 
of the international trust which before the war was represented 
in Europe by the Metals Company of Frankfurt. 

It was not our company which had an agreement with 
Krupp as a result of which even after the outbreak of war 
certain consignments were sent to Norway. 

That, too, did not do Mr. Basil ZaharofF any hurt. It was a 
slight nuisance to business ; that was all. And on the other 
side he could appeal to other letters from which it was clear 
that not only did he deliver to the enemy, but the enemy de- 
livered to him. For instance, there was a letter from Germany, 
written by the Luebeck Senator Possehl, a big steel industrialist : 

Luebeck, July 31, 1 9 14. 
To Bosshardt Bros., St. Petersburg. 

The question of deliveries of block steel and any 
other material to Russia has now become very dubious since 
war on the Continent may break out any day. 

If Sweden becomes involved in the war, then there will no 



ALMOST A MYTHOLOGICAL FIGURE 1 67 

longer be any possibility of exporting to Russia. In any case 
our Swedish works will do their utmost to speed up delivery, 
which at the present time we think will be very convenient 
for Messrs. . . . 

We consider that, if war breaks out, the German fleet will 
blockade the Finnish ports and prevent shipping reaching St. 
Petersburg. We ask you to speak on this very confidentially 
with Messrs. . . . and you can be assured that nothing will 
be revealed by us. On that point you need have no fears. 

As regards ingots we beg to advise you that we shall have 
to raise the price of nickel ingots very considerably. But 
there is no one who can supply these more cheaply, and can 
also rely on the fact that you have the certainty of securing 
from us nickel of a definitely superior quality. 

Yours faithfully, 

L. POSSEHL & Co. 

The firm were prosecuted before the Leip2ig Court. It came 
out in the proceedings that the name left blank was that of 
Putiloff. Herr Possehl was acquitted. No, there is no reproach 
to be levelled against our hero, joint-owner of these Putiloff 
works which get their nickel from enemy countries. Or should 
we mention the fact that the British fleet at the Battle of Jutland 
was equipped with telescopic sights which six months pre- 
viously had been delivered to a Dutch company by the German 
factories of Zeiss in Jena and Goerz-Anschuetz ? We prefer 
to leave it to Mr. Zaharoff to tell us something on the subject 
of "delivery to the enemy." In the year 1920 Herr Krupp 
himself was prosecuted in Leipzig — do not be alarmed ; 
nothing happened to him. Now Zaharoff, as we shall see later, 
had during the war created for his own ends a news agency, 
the "Agence Radio," and during the Krupp trial this agency 
suddenly became communicative. When Mr. Zaharoff becomes 
communicative we must pay close attention : 

The Krupp company was accused of having given to England 
the patent for the production of shrapnel fuses. In this connec- 



1 68 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

tion the Krupp firm some time ago raised an action against the 
Vickers company before the Anglo-German arbitral court. 
These fuses in England bore the mark "Kpz. 9604," which 
showed they were Krupp fuses. The Krupp company asked for 
compensation at the rate of one shilling per fuse. The sum of 
123,000,000 shillings was at stake. From that figure can be 
reckoned the contribution which Krupp made to the deaths of 
German soldiers. 

On the other hand, the same firm during the war delivered 
considerable quantities of other material, especially barbed wire, 
to neutral countries, particularly to Holland and Switzerland, 
with full knowledge that the consignments were intended for 
enemy countries. 

The article of the criminal code under which the charges 
are brought provides penalties up to penal servitude for life. 

That is something more than amazing. Basil Zaharoff, 
who is a master of silence, becomes communicative over 
malpractices in the armaments trade 1 Did he mean just to let 
us know that the other side was just as bad ? Or did he want 
to explain how he had turned his good relations with the 
enemy countries to the advantage of the Allies ? Or did the 
directors of the Agence Radio, in which at that time Basil 
Zaharoff was rather less interested than he had been, try to 
win back their powerful patron by telling him how voluble 
they could be, how much they knew about the affairs of the 
armaments industry, and that if to-day they used that knowledge 
against Krupp, to-morrow it could be used against himself 
if he left them in the lurch ? As we have to do here with Mr. 
Zaharoff and with French journalists, the chances are that the 
more complicated explanation is the more plausible. But the 
most plausible is hidden beneath the words, "In this connection 
there was an action before the arbitral court," which leaps to 
the eye of the reader of the Agence's report. Here there is no 
question of any threat on the part of the Agence to Mr. 
Zaharoff, but a threat by Mr. Zaharoff to Herr Krupp, 
who is now involved in criminal proceedings ; you've claimed 



ALMOST A MYTHOLOGICAL FIGURE 1 69 

123,000,000 shillings from me ; be careful or I shall be more 
communicative still. Actually this is the right track, for in that 
special number of the Paris Crapouillot attacking les marckands 
des canons we find this note in small type : 

Krupp did not pursue this claim to the end, but accepted 
from Vickers by way of compensation a share in the steel and 
lead works of Mier in Spain. 

So the threat was effective. Krupp did not fight the case to 
the end. An arrangement was come to and there is no informa- 
tion whether the Agence Radio ever mentioned Krupp again 
from that day to this. 

That was how it stood with the machinery, its working, 
its achievement, and its failures. But how was the constructor 
of this machinery, Mr. Basil Zaharoff himself, faring ; what did 
he do or leave undone in these years 191410 1918 ? The line 
is a very zigzag one. We have already learned that in the 
months before the war broke out he had multiplied his 
holdings in armament stock. That he himself had put fuel to 
the fire, as, for instance, in the 'Echo de Paris case, we well know. 
The outbreak of the Great War was therefore demonstration 
by example, the crowning achievement, if indeed he ever 
looked at his own deed, ever looked himself in the face. But 
that, curiously enough, he apparently did not do. The Russian 
baroness P. — the same lady who was a witness to the scene 
which Zaharoff made in that St. Petersburg restaurant after 
the Russo-Japanese War — reports that she met Zaharoff 
again in London in the August days of 1914 and "he had 
completely changed and went about in the first days of war 
like a man who has robbed someone." That may have been 
good observation. He had put power into the machine and now 
it was out of control. It was gliding away from him, with a 
life of its own in it. Like all the kings, generals, statesmen, 
and armament brokers he, too, "had not willed it," when the 



170 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

guns began to sound in all four corners of Europe. "Half 
a devil and half a child" — Perris had used the phrase of him 
at that vain Peace Conference at The Hague. 

Zaharoff does not seem to have recovered too quickly 
from the first shock. Several sources tell us that he was the 
real and chief director of the provision of munitions for all the 
Entente armies. One of these adds that at that time an English 
warship was put at his disposal. It speaks also of the daring 
and cold-blooded frustration of German efforts to seize him 
at a certain chateau and later on a neutral ship — a temporary 
secretary was delivered over to a German submarine com- 
mander as "Sir Basil Zaharoff." There are many tales. They are 
true — possibly. But before things went so far, before this man 
of sixty-five got the length of setting to work again, of getting 
the reins into his hands, of becoming super-director and super- 
patriot of patriots, there was this transition period, the period 
when he looked like someone who has robbed someone, 
the period of bad conscience. And it is worth while examining 
that period if one wishes to get the psychological explanation 
of that completely new generosity without any arriere-pensee 
or intrigue which was then noticed in him. 

Here is a story told by the witness D., the former Premier of 
Greece. Zaharoff, who during the war moved between Paris 
and London, went to Briand and talked to him about the 
organization of air warfare. He took his departure and at the 
door turned round suddenly — D. got the details from Briand 
himself — pulled a sealed envelope from his pocket, handed it 
to Briand without a word and ran from the room. In the 
envelope was a slip of paper marked "For soldiers' widows" 
with a cheque for a million francs. Briand called to him, 
wishing to thank him, but his visitor hurried on and did not 
come back. 

There is something fateful in this meeting of his with 
Briand. The same M. Aristide Briand once again, after so 
many years, entangled the generous donor in the affairs of 



ALMOST A MYTHOLOGICAL FIGURE 171 

Greece, the affairs of his homeland — and they ate at the money 
and nerves of Zaharoff until a considerable portion of what 
he had amassed in his long, wild life had been lost. But that 
happened long after this. At the moment we are only in 1915, 
still in the days of the war. 

What was happening during the war in Mr. Zaharoff's home- 
land — that is, if we may consider Greece as his homeland ? 
The political situation, so far as Eastern Europe was concerned, 
was just what we found it to be in 18 21 and again in 1877 ; 
only the details differed — dates, names of battlefields, and 
generals. Once again Russia is setting free the Balkan peoples ; 
the Balkan nation which is in the foreground is this time the 
Serb. Greece is Serbia's ally, but for good reasons remains 
neutral. There were two parties in the country. One was that 
of the king, a soldier king who loved the army and was a 
brother-in-law of Wilhelm 11, still German enough not to 
want to fight against Germany, yet Greek enough not — as 
he declared to an interviewer — to want to fight at all, "because 
Greece can gain more if the end of the World War finds her 
with her army intact than if she had taken part in it." The 
other party was that of Venizelos, the friend of the Entente, 
a man of the people from the islands which have always 
remained democratic, anti-dynastic, Venizelist. The Serbs 
flourished the treaty of alliance ; the Emperor Wilhelm tele- 
graphed to his brother-in-law — his telegraphic methods are 
well known ; the Entente and the Central Powers began to 
spur on their adherents a little. What did not happen officially 
happened semi-officially ; what did not happen semi-officially 
happened with the aid of small organizations which had been 
allowed to grow here and there under the leadership of 
responsible or irresponsible persons. In addition there was a 
difference of opinion among the diplomatists of the Entente, 
and after a month or two things had proceeded so far that 
Athens had become the maddest and most active nest of 
intrigue and espionage that ever existed even under Balkan 



I72 2AHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

conditions. Propaganda was a universal trade. It was soon 
said that the Germans had been able to obtain an inordinate 
influence over the masses which was exercised by a "devilishly 
cunning and mysterious" agent, Baron von Schenck by name, 
who, if you like to believe Mr. Compton Mackenzie, seems, 
despite his high reputation, to have been only a harmless and 
conceited ass. 

But something had to be done. Greece had to be taught 
to what side she belonged. And in this connection we possess 
two documents. A little indiscretion ; a secret despatch. 

The Russian Minister in Athens, Prince Demidoff, to the 
Russian Foreign Minister Sazonoff. 

Telegram 
No. 283. 
Confidential. 

Apart from the struggle with German agents by means 
of police supervision for which unusually large sums have been 
made available by our allies, certain steps have been taken by 
them with the aim of influencing public opinion through the 
Press. The fact, nevertheless, that it is questionable whether 
any real results will accrue from such measures induces me to 
state my opinion against the organization of the measures at 
present planned by us in Greece whose results will not be 
commensurate with the expense involved. Should, however, 
the Ministry for this or that reason consider it necessary that 
such measures should be taken, I add a rough estimate of 
what could be done : (1) a subsidy to two newspapers which 
are ready to serve our purposes — 3,000 francs per month; 
(2) a subsidy to the telegraph agency in Athens which apparently 
is ready to include in its service news of the desired kind 
— 5,000 francs per month; (3) the creation of an anonymous 
organization which, basing itself on telegraphed news from 
Russian and foreign papers and on information of a general 
character, would edit such material for reprint in the various 
local papers. These would contain news of the victories of the 



ALMOST A MYTHOLOGICAL FIGURE 1 73 

Allies, of their power and their resources, and, further, would 
see that the general and current Balkan questions were treated 
in a way favourable to us. This would cost a sum of about 
1,500 francs per month, while the payment to the various 
papers, among them some at present paid by the Germans, who 
say that they are ready to publish news of the kind mentioned 
at two or three francs per line, and further payment for indi- 
vidual editors and journalists who will use the material men- 
tioned and will develop the leading ideas supplied to them — 
a sum of at least 12,000 francs per month. Apart from that 
there is the task of issuing popular pamphlets, which will cost 
about 200 francs per month. Including the supplementary work 
the newspaper budget will cost more than 20,000 francs per 
month. 

Demidoff. 

And something was done. But not by Russia, where the Czar 
fully shared Prince Demidoff's pessimism. In Paris there was 
someone who made this his own business : 

Demidoff to Sazonoff 

Telegram 
No. 106. 
Personal. 

I have been told very confidentially by a reliable source 
that the French Government has put at Venizelos' disposal 
2,000,000 francs for propaganda in the army. 

Demidoff. 

And with these 2,000,000 francs we come again to Mr. Basil 
Zaharoff ; to Mr. Zaharoff and M. Briand. But let us relate 
the story in the order of events. 

About the end of 191 5 M. Venizelos, who had been deposed 
from his premiership, toyed with the idea of deposing King 
Constantine in his turn and clearing him out of Greece. The 
Greek Minister in Paris, a certain M. Romanos, confided the 
scheme to M. Briand, then Foreign Minister, and asked to 



174 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

be told how far France would go in the matter of expenses. 
M. Briand had loyalist scruples ; could he support a rebel 
against his lawful king ? That would be immoral. So he handed 
to M. Venizelos only 350,000 francs just as a mark of his 
sympathy. That was a mere drop in the bucket. But then 
there went to M. Briand a marvellous armaments gentleman 
and handed him an envelope containing a million francs. 
M. Briand made inquiries and found that the gentleman had 
also given 200,000 francs for a war hospital in Biarrit2. And 
he had handed over the gold plate from his house in Paris 
to the Bank of France. Either this gentleman had something 
to conceal, or he was a great friend of the Allies — but in war- 
time it was as well not to push inquiries too far. And in any 
case the gentleman had too much money. And he was a 
Greek 1 That was sufficient reason for Mr. Zaharoff at the turn 
of the year 191 5-1 6 to be invited again to come and see 
M. Briand. One result of the visit was that Prince Demidoff 
could send home the telegram which we have just read. (In 
a despatch sent by Briand on August 8, 1916, to the French 
Minister in Athens, the despatch which was at the bottom of 
DemidofFs telegram, the name of the donor of the two millions 
is said to be given.) But nothing could be done with money 
alone. M. Briand had several times tried to establish a really 
good Entente propaganda service in Athens, but in this sort 
of activity the French were no more efficient than the English, 
who would not take the thing seriously. A journalist was 
needed, and one with money. To purchase newspapers I To 
form public opinion ! Was there not a rumour that this generous 
Mr. Zaharoff had once had some experience of the game ? 

And now let us get further information from an apologia 
written by the French journalist, Henri Turot, who later played 
some part in politics : 

In the course of a mission to Greece with which I was 
entrusted by M. Briand I recognized the imperative necessity 
of putting an end to the situation in which we found ourselves 



ALMOST A MYTHOLOGICAL FIGURE I75 

thanks to German propaganda. A counter-poison must be 
found at all costs. I besought M. Briand by wire and then 
personally to give us the necessary resources. 

On one of my visits to Paris from Athens, Briand, through 
Painlevd, brought me into contact with Mr. Zaharoff, who had 
expressed his willingness to place part of his huge fortune at 
our disposal for the furtherance of our policy in the Balkans. 
I was able to convince Mr. Zaharoff that one of the most potent 
means of helping our propaganda in the Balkans, or rather of 
calling it into existence, was to found a Mediterranean news 
agency. Mr. Zaharoff had only one wish, and that was to 
present to his adopted country, France, a tool which would 
be fitted to supply a counter-weight in Greece to the infamous 
and demoralizing propaganda of the Wolff agency. 

To realize this Mr. Zaharoff placed the necessary funds at 
my disposal and added words which could not fail to please 
me : "It is not my intention to create a wretched local agency, 
I shall extend your conception and give you the means to 
found an agency that will be world-wide in its influence." Thus 
thanks to the wide vision of Briand and the generous co-opera- 
tion of Zaharoff the Agence Radio came into existence, and a 
few months later its success surpassed all our expectations. 

Now all that about the ideal aims of the Agence Radio, 
financed on so lordly a scale by Mr. Zaharoff, is very French. 
Prince Demidoff expressed himself a little more bluntly when 
he reported thus to St. Petersburg on the new activity of 
French propaganda. 

Papers have been acquired ; special editions subsidized, and a 
special French agency, the Radio, has been established. It issues 
bulletins which very one-sidedly contain news favourable to 
the interests of the Entente. 

And the first trace of the activity of this new version of 
Zaharoff 's "principle of incitement" which we find in the world 
press is this : 



I76 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

Athens. The Agence d'Athenes reports : The public prose- 
cutor has ordered a judicial investigation in the case of the 
Agence Radio for spreading false news. All the papers, even 
the Venizelist organs Patris, Hestia, Nea He/las, and Etbnos, 
furiously attack the Agence Radio and condemn its methods. 

Thus the news factory of Mr. Zaharoffwent a little too enthu- 
siastically to work. The general indignation of the Press — 
"even of the Venizelist organs" — showed that nothing could 
be done simply by founding an agency. Newspapers must be 
secured which would accept the agency's service, and pass it 
on to their readers. If Athens really was "Paris in little" then 
the newspaper market in Athens could be captured by Parisian 
methods. And here let us quote Richard Lewinsohn, who is 
well-informed on this point : 

The new foundation, the newspaper Eleftheros Typos, friendly 
to the Entente, was readily supported. But then whert the 
paper Embros was about to be bought up the official organ of 
the Venizelos, the Patris, felt itself threatened by competition. 
The owners went off straight away to the French legation and 
threatened to go over to the Central Powers if a part of the 
money for propaganda didn't reach their pockets. As the 
Patris was a paper which was much quoted in Paris and London, 
the French legation could do nothing else than telegraph to 
Paris their view that the original Venizelist papers should also 
be subsidized to the tune of two to three hundred thousand 
francs. Nothing more then was heard of the purchase of the 
Embros and the storm was allayed. Some time later a new 
paper, the KJrix, took up the Entente propaganda and carried 
on the struggle against the neutrality policy of the Greek 
Government with extreme vigour. 

Here once again we find the tracks of the man from Tata via. 
It cannot be the task of this biography to set out in detail 
this long history. Mr. Zaharoff deluged Greece with false 
news ; the fleet which blockaded Piraeus showed the Greeks 
Vickers' and Schneider-Creusot's guns, and an army of pro- 



ALMOST A MYTHOLOGICAL FIGURE 1 77 

pagandists paid with Zaharoff's money, was let loose on 
Greece and had as task to convert those who could not be 
converted either by the reports of the Agence Radio or by the 
guns of the navies. This army, according to Lewinsohn, 
consisted, as the official list countersigned by the prefect of 
police of Athens stated, of one hundred and sixty persons, 

including 

8 men suspected of murder 
27 thieves 
10 smugglers 
21 professional gamblers 
20 white slavers 

The American Davenport said that he read a secret report 
sent by Henri Turot to the Quai d'Orsay which ran thus : 

The recent demonstration in Athens did not cost us much 
. . . only 10,000 francs. 

That went on for a year, and then it was seen that Briand had 
been fully justified in letting Mr. Zaharoff loose on his home- 
land. The concentrated attack produced results. King Constan- 
tine left the country. Venizelos came into power and then 
Greece entered the war on the side of the Entente. Mr. Zaharoff 
is once again a lauded patriot and might well be content with 
his work. Here there is no question of strategic hypotheses 
such as we considered in connection with the Gallipoli cam- 
paign ; here are facts. The entry of Greece into the war was 
one of the reasons for the collapse of the Bulgarian front, and 
the collapse of the Bulgarian front was one of the reasons for 
the great debacle of November 191 8. Because his action in 
the homeland was so successful, because the diplomatists of 
the Central Powers in Athens received their passports, the 
man with the imperial was so relieved in his conscience and 
had so completely assumed control of the great transaction 
that it was to him that recourse was had when, during 191 7, 



I78 ZAHAROFF ! THE ARMAMENTS KING 

a possibility of peace appeared on the horizon. According to 
one source it was on the occasion of President Wilson's 
offer to intervene with the Central Powers ; according to 
another, on the occasion of that famous Letter of the 
Emperor Karl to Prince Sixtus of Parma. The one source 
says that it was Lord Bertie who, in a sense, "approached" 
Mr. Zaharoff; according to the other it was Sir William 
Tyrrell. The answer at least is certain. One of them entered 
in his diary : 

Zaharoff is for the prosecution of the war to the bitter end. 

And the first source adds : 

When our sons rushed to death the call came not from 
King and country, but from the armaments manufacturer, 
Zaharoff. 

"To the bitter end !" We know what the end was. We are in 
November 191 8. 

Is Basil Zaharoff a national hero or is he a "war criminal" ? 
The difference between these two conceptions in certain 
circumstances is very much of the same type as that between 
victors and vanquished. Most of the factories belonging to 
Mr. Basil Zaharoff were in the Entente countries, and so 
in the war he was on the side of the Allies. Thus in 191 8 he is 
no criminal but a hero. On the other side of the front line 
there were soon to be criminal proceedings started against 
his business friends, Thyssen and Krupp, although, as we have 
seen, nothing happened to them. And we have also explained 
that Mr. Zaharoff recovered from his first horror and found 
himself possessed once again of a good conscience and playing 
the part of an uncrowned armaments king. 

During the Great War he was actually the Minister of 
Munitions for all the Allies ; his power and his influence were 
so great that the Allied leaders were compelled to ask his 



ALMOST A MYTHOLOGICAL FIGURE 1 79 

opinion before any great attack was undertaken ; his change of 
residence was kept secret and he went from port to port on a 
British torpedo-boat which had been placed specially at his 
disposal. 

So the Weekly Dispatch says. Is that legend ? Or just a minor 
departure from strict accuracy ? But at least we can be sure 
that a new, a second, wave of generosity swept over this tough 
old man, this conquistador who would soon be seventy, 
and who now, at the end of the Great War, stood on a 
pinnacle of power such as even he had not dreamed of. But this 
time it is not the munificence of a man who is trying to establish 
a moral alibi. He is now a Maecenas and a patron of the fine 
arts and pure science. He establishes a chair of English liter- 
ature in the Sorbonne in Paris ; it is called the Haig Chair. 
He founds a chair of French literature in Oxford ; it is called 
the Foch Chair — because after all he has moved in the cultivated 
circles of Paris diplomacy and is a citizen of the world. It is, 
if you like, a case of the application of the Zaharoffian prin- 
ciples of incitement and of arming both sides, but carried into 
the sphere of munificence. The Temps disclosed the fact that 
during the war the "great philanthropist," as from now on 
he is called, had devoted fully fifty million francs to the Allied 
cause. How much he got from the Allied cause is not reported. 
But he had delivered the goods ; now came the payment. 
Oxford took its friendly revenge and bestowed on him the 
honorary degree of doctor of laws. Of laws ! Upon Mr. Basil 
ZaharofFI Paris could not let itself be shamed. Read in the 
Journal Officiel : 

Legion of Honour. On the recommendation of the Foreign 
Minister. To be Grand Officer — M. Basil Zaharoff. Reasons : 
extraordinary service to the Allied cause. 

Thereupon England entered into competition with its ally 
across the Channel and bestowed on the man who had per- 



l8o ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

formed "extraordinary services" the Grand Cross of the Bath. 
Whereupon France overtrumped the ally across the Channel, 
and made him — after all, he was practically a Frenchman — 
Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, the greatest honour 
it can confer. Or is he really practically an Englishman ? It can 
at least be demonstrated that it was in England that for the 
first time he had to do with the authorities 1 Accordingly 
the people in London could not let themselves be outdone 
by their friends across the Channel and conferred upon this 
gentleman who is practically an Englishman the Grand Cross 
of the Order of the British Empire. There the competition 
ended. France made to that last honour no reply. For now 
peace had broken out. And the portrait of the national hero 
Zaharoff, after the enlarging process done by the Paris Press, 
began to show some flaws. 

But at the moment let us stop at the first outbreak of peace 
and at the partitioning of the globe by the four men of Paris. 
Two of them, Lloyd George and Clemenceau, were Zaharoff's 
trusted friends, were of those who, during the last years of the 
war had been accustomed to inquire modestly after the opinion 
of this king without a crown, this minister of munitions 
without responsibility, whenever important decisions had to 
be taken. Had, then, the man with the imperial, whose fortune 
was then estimated by many at thirty million, and by some at 
a hundred million pounds sterling, and who was reckoned 
to be one of the richest and one of the most powerful men in 
the world, his fingers among the cards or the cards in his 
fingers ? We will take the trouble to investigate. At least one 
thing is obvious, and that is how Sir Basil Zaharoff has grown 
to be a symbol. He has become material for legend, for liter- 
ature. And so we have reached the stage at which we can 
busy ourselves with the literary versions of his personality. 
This Basil Zaharoff from Mughla, Tatavla, Wilkomir, the 
Phanar, London, Paris, this "man of mystery," this "man 
behind the scenes," this "merchant of sudden death," this 



ALMOST A MYTHOLOGICAL FIGURE l8l 

"king of arms," this "great philanthropist" — how does he 
appear when his expensive limousine encounters one of those 
less comfortable cars in which writers have to travel ? 

There is first a scene from Emil Ludwig's play Versailles. 
Mr. Lloyd George is giving a party in his hotel in Paris. 
The room is full of celebrities : 

secretary. Mr. Nansen to see you. He asks you to excuse his 

clothes. He only arrived a few minutes ago. 
L. G. Frithof Nansen 1 Here's a sensible man at last who under- 
stands nothing about politics. 

(Nansen enters and shakes hands with Lloyd George and 

Balfour. Lloyd George offers him whisky. They sit by the 

fire.) 

. . . (falling in at once with the other's frankness) Excellent I 

We've missed you here in this Zoo. What use can we be ? 

nansen (simply). You can send us bread. 

L. G. (uneasily). What ? Norway ? But all these years you've been 
doing a gigantic deal in timber. Is there really any shortage 
with you ? 
nansen (never sentimental, always manly, simple, and direct as his 
ga%e). Bread for three hundred million starving Germans 
and Russians, Mr. Lloyd George. 

(A long pause. From up-stage dance music softly played. 
Laughter and the clink of glasses?) 
l. g. What do you suggest ? 
nansen. Raise the blockade. 
l.g. Impossible till after peace has been signed. 
nansen. Meanwhile fifty thousand children are dying of 

starvation over there. 
l. g. (violently). But until they've signed I could never put it 
across England. 

(A group has formed not far from the table. In it is 

Zacharoff, the face of an old buccaneer with a grey beard and 

roving eye, and General Bliss. Others follow them and stand 

listening, a little apart, to what ensues?) 

L. G. We're trying to find some method of feeding these 

starving German children. 



1 82 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

zacharoff (always unmoved, lucid, he speaks in a slow, meditative 
voice). I'll sign a cheque at once for a million. 

nansen {looks him straight in the eyes). Who — is the signer ? 

zacharoff. Zacharoff. I think we've met. 

nansen (astonished but not taken aback). I — don't seem to 
remember. 

zacharoff. You look surprised, Professor Nansen ? 

bliss. Well, I'll say this, Mr. Zacharoff, that's the good old 
American way of doing things. What a man has lifted off 
society he can always give back in his old age. 

zacharoff. I made it all honestly. 

bliss. Sure. By selling guns. 

zacharoff. Well, general, haven't you spent your life letting 
off the guns I sold ? 

bliss. Unluckily that was all they ever taught me. Besides, I 
took nothing but my wages. 

zacharoff. You think I made this offer to salve my 
conscience ? 

nansen. I have no right to pry into the motives of a man who 
offers me a million for starving children. 

zacharoff. Well, but — ask me anything you like. Or do you 
disapprove of Hoover's Relief Campaign because the 
American farmers can't dispose of their huge surplus 
stocks now that peace has taken them by surprise ? I 
could wish all the kings and cabinet ministers who 
couldn't manage to avoid this war as quiet a conscience 
as mine. 

L. G. Well, I don't fear the verdict of history — or the verdict 
of God Almighty either. 

zacharoff. And General Bliss ? 

bliss. At the moment of crisis I had only to carry out the 
orders of Congress. 

zacharoff. And I, for the last forty years, as representative 
of an international armaments concern, delivered arms in 
strict impartiality to any Power that cared to order them. 
Socialism, the Bourse, Science, and the Vatican, all failed 
you. Alone, above international strife, stood the inter- 
national armament industry. Its justice was supreme and 



ALMOST A MYTHOLOGICAL FIGURE 1 83 

even-handed, since the quality of the goods it delivered 
was equal for every combatant. 
nansen. H'm I General absolution 1 Then why are three 
hundred million guiltless Germans and Russians starving 
to-day ? 
l. G. Guiltless ? Didn't they choose their own Governments ? 
balfour. I'm afraid that can't be argued in the case of the old 

absolute monarchies. 
nansen. Monsieur Zacharoff, what led you to select your 

branch of industry ? 
zacharoff. Chance — which, forty years ago, happened to set me 
down in a munition firm instead of in a chocolate factory. 
nansen. So you didn't deliver your orders in the hope that 

there would be a war ? 
zacharoff. On the contrary. Naturally our best business is 
done in peace-time. {With conviction) Then they all buy — 
to be prepared. In war-time every tintack factory makes 
munitions. Nobody, therefore, has greater interest than 
we in keeping the peace for ever and ever. 
nansen. But — if statesmen, generals, and armament kings all 

wanted peace, why did we have any war ? 
zacharoff. There you touch some old and primitive reasons. 
Shall we say — love of adventure ? For instance, the young 
men of Europe who now lie rotting on the battlefields 
were thrilled by your Polar expedition. They all devoured 
your book. They welcomed their chance of showing that 
they, too, could risk their lives in any great cause — say 
the Fatherland. I believe that you, Professor Nansen, are 
the one man here to-night who has ever gone out to seek 
adventures — not urged by any business interest or moral 
or official obligation — merely because you had it in your 
blood. 
nansen {simply, without irony). So that I must be the only really 
warlike person here — in all this League of Nation. 
(He rises, so do the others.) 
bliss. If this League of Nations arms again to the teeth instead 
of getting down at once to disarmament it'll be a scandal 
and a laughing-stock. 



184 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

nansen {turning on him vehemently). I find myself here between a 
general with a bristling moustache and four stars on his 
collar who preaches disarmament, and an armament king 
who promises me a million for starving children. I may 
count on your cheque ? 

{Movement through the room.) 

And now for the last act of the play. The scene is the park 
in Versailles immediately after the signing of the Peace Treaty. 

(From left enter Zacharoff with his secretary between two 
delegates.) 

1. del. But when ? When can you deliver ? 

zacharoff (to secretary). Do you think that in eight months 
from to-day we could deliver three hundred small calibre 
guns ? Let's say April 1st. 

2. del. And our five thousand ? 

zacharoff (dictates). For Roumania three hundred small guns 
model B ; for Czechoslovakia five hundred model C. All 
for April 1, 1920. Confirmation to follow. 

3. del. Found at last. They're all leaving Paris and I must see 

you. But (glancing at the others.) 

2. del. (smiling). Oh don't let's intrude. 

3. del. Lithuania must have flame-throwers. Have you ? Can 

you ? Forgive me but it's urgent. (Resorts to gesture.) 
zacharoff (dictates). Three thousand flame-throwers, Ger- 
man type. With the new American breech. 

4. del. There's Zacharoff. We're in luck. No, no, we don't 

clash in the least. It's a matter of tanks. Without tanks 
Italy's done for. Our War Office representative would 
like to see you to-morrow. When can you deliver ? No, 
no, it's terribly urgent. Can't you understand ? 
paderewski. My dear Zacharoff I Big guns 1 You smile ? I can't 
defend Poland simply with music. Big guns ! What type ? 
My War Minister will explain it all to you. You promise 
me as an old friend preferential treatment. Money ? 
Quite unimportant. But real 42's. The kind the Germans 
used to have. My dear friend ! 



ALMOST A MYTHOLOGICAL FIGURE 1 85 

5. del. Mr. Lloyd George has heard you're leaving Paris. 

He'll be much gratified if you could spend next week- 
end with him in Kent. He has a few details to discuss 
with you regarding the carrying out of the peace 
conditions. 

(They all surround him.) 

6. del. There he is ! We've looked everywhere for him. The 

hero of the day. Why, what an illustrious assembly ? 

Now then I Gas ! What about poison gas ? 
all. Of course, gas. 
zacharoff. Just send in your orders. They'll all be delivered. 

1. del. But the German gas ? Where will we get it now ? 
zacharoff. We can offer you a most reliable substitute. I'm 

just on the point of founding an international trust 

2. del. To gas off Europe ? 

zacharoff {serious). Only to get the right formulae. 

several dels. And guns ? And flame-throwers ? And sub- 
marines ? But when ? Soon 1 Soon I It's so extremely 
urgent. 

(They throng round him.) 

zacharoff. Well, at least give me till to-morrow. On so 
festive a day I feel I ought to take a little stroll. Listen 
to these planes humming away again and the sounds of 
guns again. It all makes me feel perfectly certain that the 
great peace is signed at last. 

A fine, a grateful dramatic figure, this Mr. Zaharoff. 
Already he is a major source of worry to the writers of epics. 
As example I offer you the account of a meeting between Sir 
Basil and a less fortunate colleague, taken from the work of 
an author whom I hold in great esteem, to wit, a scene from 
the novel Die Macht by Robert Neumann : 

You could have given me the room with the three windows 
overlooking the harbour instead of this hole ; it's a scandal 
and I want to see the manager. The next time I'll go to the 
Royal. No, that's not bluff; one has to look after oneself. 



1 86 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

Send up this card to Mr. G. in the prince's suite ; yes, to the 
King of Sweden. Cards cost nothing. 



Son Altesse 
PAUL DE ROY 

Due de l'lrac 
Cousin du Roi d'Albanie 



Yes, that hits you. But for just now keep my incognito, or 
if you must, lift the veil ever so little . . . And send these two 
cards to Sir Basil Zaharoff's palace. Sick, is he ? Not seeing 
anyone ? He'll see me, my dear sir, you can bet your boots on 
that. Wait ; instead of the card I'll send a bilkt-doux. Hand- 
made paper and the crown on it. And I'll say : 

Dear Sir Basil, 

I must speak to you at once on the matter of the 
commission for Albania which is long overdue. As a 
result of temporary embarrassments, I need the money most 
urgently 

No, that's not good enough. Better be quite blunt : 

Sir Basil, I am here and I must speak to you. In an hour I 
will 

No, again no. You're tired with your travelling ; take a 
cocktail. If you don't, you'll use up all the fine paper ; there's 
only eighteen sheets left. Got it in Stockholm — no, in 
Copenhagen ; Frau Graarud paid it then. What was she called 
— Hertha ? Helene ? But this letter. It runs now : 

Dear old friend, 

Here we are breathing Riviera air again. I've a chateau, 
old friend, quite close to your bueno retiro. I'm almost in love 
with it and its golf-links. I've bought a property in the south 
of England, but one has to have one's little log cabin on the 
Cote d'Azur. Only I could not settle down here without shaking 
you by the hand and hearing that I am not quite unwelcome to 



ALMOST A MYTHOLOGICAL FIGURE 1 87 

you as a neighbour. The King of Sweden expects me to dinner. 
But I've a minute before I need go and I'd like to say "How 
d'you do" to you. Till then. 

Yours ever, 

de Rot. 

Right at last. Over it goes by liveried messenger. And 
the wicked old devil, this wreck of a rotten Greek bandit, 
whom they managed just not to pinch, this beast of a Zaharoff 
has the guts to get impudent and write back : 

Dear de Roy, 

My valet has a peculiar habit ; he throws out uninvited 
guests. And in a day or two I shall be eighty-two and am too 
old to train him better. Isn't it a pity ? But the enclosed note 
for a thousand francs will be enough not only to pay your 
hotel bill, but to get you back to Salonica or Cairo. There 
you'll be safe from the police. Safe journey. 

Sir B. Z. 

I was right ; a bandit. I must have five minutes to cool down. 
Then the cooling down process was over and the next thing 
was to get even with the Greek pig. Then — but let's take things 
as they came. 

At 1. 1 5 I was still sitting at lunch. It was then that that 
letter came. The mattre d'hotel himself brought it into the 
restaurant ; he had read the address of the sender and stood 
stiffly to attention until I opened it and glanced at it : "Aha, 
from my friend Zaha — " I let that much out and then was 
discreetly silent. Then I collected myself, and said, "Go over 
to Sir Basil's. Say that I'm most awfully sorry, but at the 
moment I'm at lunch and that I'm going to have a nap after- 
wards. I don't know if I'll be able to receive visitors to-day. 
He'll understand. Will you do that ? Good 1 Well, what are 
you waiting for?" There he stood and stared at the thousand- 
franc note which had slipped out of the envelope on to the 
cloth and which he can't fathom at all. But I pulled myself 
together quickly. I laughed lightly and said : "Aha — splendid. 
Here's a thousand chervonetzes. Send them over to Sir 



1 88 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

Basil and tell him that his credit's good enough for me for that 
sum — of course it is — and tell him that it's a pleasure. He 
shouldn't have sent me this first thousand-franc note as 
cover, the old stupid. Cover indeed ! He has forgotten to add 
two noughts. That's a hundred thousand, a hundred thousand 
francs. He's ageing, is the good Sir Basil." Off goes the 
maitre d'hotel. He bows seven times and almost falls over 
himself in his hurry. They really shouldn't appoint young 
men to such responsible jobs. 

Then a couple of chervonetzes — but never mind that. 
What's the use of having a new business connection with 
this — what's he called ? Gutjahr. A million seven hundred 
thousand lies in his safe ; I'd like to take away a hundred 
thousand in my pocket-book. Perhaps I can give this fellow 
something, once I get the notes changed. Good ! I'll deal in 
the hall with the motor salesman. Then his letter arrives : 

Dear M. de Roy, 

A letter from you must have gone amissing and I 
suppose that your payment in chervonetzes is connected with 
one of those deliveries to Russia arranged at the time. I ask 
you therefore to come and see me at once. I am in the office of 
the Casino. Come and fetch me there so that we shall lose no 
time. 

Always yours, 

Sir Basil. 

Ha ! ha 1 Ha ! ha ! ha 1 I jump into my touring car. I let 
him wait, the old bandit. I drive along quite slowly. . . . 

But that is enough. We have no time for M. Paul de Roy's 
conjuring tricks, and I think we have heard enough of his 
monologue. The interview between M. de Roy, cousin of the 
King of Albania, and Sir Basil Zaharoff went like this. They 
met and strolled slowly along the Casino promenade, both 
of them in morning-coats and top-hats. They were of the 
same height, both white-haired, strong-muscled, sunburnt. 
You might easily have taken them for brothers, as, having 
greeted each other, they strolled along in that idle, aristocratic 



ALMOST A MYTHOLOGICAL FIGURE 189 

way, like monarchs talking familiarly. Sir Basil had sent home 
his negro servant and his doctor so that he could confer 
confidentially with his dear de Roy. With a little intimate 
gesture he had put his hand inside the arm of the younger 
man, the youngster. For that eighty-two of his was not quite 
accurate — the real truth was something so pleasant that it 
was not to be uttered in everyday conversation ; besides, 
he liked to play the invalid, remembering old huckster days 
in Asia Minor. He is seventy-six and not more than half blind 
yet. On that point let neither man nor God be mistaken. 

Then this conversation follows. M. de Roy bursts out : 
"So they said to me, M. de Roy, they said to me, the new 
machine factory in Stalingrad has been officially working 
for thirteen weeks ; officially, according to the Five- Year Plan, 
it is putting out eight machine-guns a day, but actually it 
hasn't really put out one finished gun because the American 
four-millimetre fraising machine hasn't arrived yet. And 
there is to be a parade on the Red Square on October i . They 
must have two thousand machine-guns. So go to Germany, 
M. de Roy, or go where you like, and buy where you like and 
as dear as you like, but buy anyway, M. de Roy, and help 
us out of a hole. We haven't any dollars at the moment, but 
here's two million chervonetzes for you." On the heavy side, 
thinks M. de Roy, while he says all this in his easy way, on the 
heavy side, but the old lad's biting. Three, four, five years 
ago, you couldn't have handled him this way. And he ends up : 
"So here I am with my chervonetzes, and if you are very cheap, 
dear Sir Basil — well, it isn't the first time we have done business 
together." On the heavy side, thinks Sir Basil ; he is just a fool. 
I've despised him for five and twenty years because he is just 
a fool. Now it's obvious to anyone. Scarcely sixty and he's 
gone ga-ga. But it's no business of mine for whom he buys 
machine-guns. Money's money, and he's really got Russian 
money. Money's money, and perhaps I could put over on him 
those 1870 needle guns which the Macedonians rejected, 
but which are still good enough for Central Asia. Now he 
bows with senile affability to a lady, then he hums a bar or two 
of the slow fox-trot which the band on the lower terrace is 



190 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

playing, and then at last he recollects himself and says : "Oh, 
yes, these Russians. Ha I ha ! Whom are they going to fight 
now ?" All that M. de Roy thinks is — idiot. That means — and 
then he thinks — idiot and I'll pay you with my almost genuine 
chervonetzes and I'll send them marked "corned beef" to 
my friend Feisal. He pays in gold, you fool, and so is doubly 
deserving. There you go in your fat, you haven't let me get 
fat in the twenty-five years of our acquaintance. But now there 
is such a thing as justice in the world, now you're nothing but 
an idiot ; we're not so far off the day when whisky will taste 
like petrol. 

Then Sir Basil leans still more senilely on his other arm and 
says casually : "That graceful little thing over there. I've a 
weakness for red hair. Red-haired women have such a wonderful 
skin when they're very young. She's looked over ; she's taken 
a notion of you. I have still a hundred thousand rifles. They're 
not just the latest type ; they're needle guns. But what of it. 
They're sound and solid ; they'll last. I'm too old now for 
business. I remember now, my grandnephew has brought 
an action to declare me incapable of managing my own 
affairs ; the hearing's on the twelfth. But till then I'm my own 
master. I'll sell you the rifles at two pounds apiece." That, 
too, thinks Sir Basil, is a bit on the heavy side, but for all 
his upright carriage the fellow's quite ga-ga. Two, three years 
ago you couldn't have put it across him like this. And he stands 
still for a moment and breathes in the air, the tang of that warm, 
salty sea air filled with perfumes, petrol and the scent of 
summer flowers, and says dreamily like a man remembering 
the past, "Ah, this air I" 

Then just then at the very same moment an alarm bell 
rings in the mind of each of them. It is always a mistake to 
underestimate your partner ; better remember one is a man of 
the world and tighten the reins a little. M. de Roy says : 
"Aye, that air ! Le celebre atmosphere de la Mediterranee. The 
needle-guns are a job lot. It was you that dainty little thing 
looked at, my dear Sir Basil. No false modesty, now. These 
red-haired women 1 But when they are thirteen they get hairs 
on their bodies and at sixteen their bloom is over. There is 



ALMOST A MYTHOLOGICAL FIGURE 1 9 1 

something doing in Thrace and Albania which you should — 
But to whom am I telling this ? A. propos Albania. Did you 
know that I have still to get my commission for the last order 
for gas shells ? Ten thousand two hundred dollars in all. The 
little woman anyway doesn't come from the East ; she's prob- 
ably from the States ; she puts on a tweed costume in the after- 
noon." Sir Basil acknowledges with pleased deliberation 
the salutes of two gentlemen and answers lightly : "Ah, those 
tweed outfits. Frenchwomen and cocottes wear silk in the 
afternoon. Do you really think it was me she looked at ? 
I can't consider the matter of the Albanian commission ; 
the order was never completed. I like to play the Prince of 
Wales here a bit, you know, and create Riviera fashions. 
Yesterday at half-past four I put on a dinner jacket with a 
black tie, and, of course, dress shoes, but with a white waist- 
coat and white flannel trousers. It looked fine. What do you 
think ?" 

But what M. Paul de Roy, Duke of Iraq and cousin of the 
King of Albania, had to say to this genial extravagance of 
the powerful old gentleman was never uttered. For in M. de 
Roy's brain a second alarm bell went. He's making game of 
me, he thought bitterly. And now he changes ever so little 
the pleasant conversational tone he has used up to now ; a 
sudden touch of hardness creeps into his voice, when, brushing 
aside the man-of-the-world question of his partner, he says 
shortly : "You'll pay that Albanian commission. The thing 
was quite in order. Whether you carried it out or not doesn't 
matter a tinker's curse to me." And at a stroke — the genially 
thrown ball of small talk is not taken up again ; it rolls away 
unheeded. He is now the commercial traveller, de Roy, 
born in 1866 in Newhampton in the State of Virginia, a man 
to be treated with respect. Eleven warrants, each one more 
undeserved than the other, are out against him in all the 
corners and ends of the earth ; more money has passed through 
his tobacco-yellowed fingers than through those of a bank 
cashier ; in Vienna they impounded his trunk and his car ; 
he has in his bag one hundred and thirty-four contracts ; 
contracts for future delivery, contracts for loans, contracts 



192 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

with States, contracts for land development, mining rights 
contracts, appointment contracts — one hundred and thirty- 
four of them, and of these one hundred and eight may be 
all bluff and thin air, but the others are worth millions. And 
there is Sir Basil Zaharoff. Possibly he is a little older. But he 
doesn't come from the States, but from a tiny place in Asia 
Minor, and the fifty-and-one warrants which, in the course 
of his long and rich life, have been sworn out against him 
in all the corners and ends of the earth, these — for money 
has remained sticking to these tobacco-yellowed fingers of 
his ; he is a child of fortune — these he has long ago got 
quashed. His bag and his car have not been pledged ; he is 
a pillar of the State. No one gets round him. As they stand 
there in their morning-coats and top-hats, the same height, 
the same grey hairs, the same strong muscles, the same sun- 
burn, they might be taken for brothers. Only their bodies — 
aye, beneath that curious covering of cloth and linen their 
bodies, the bodies of old men, of old clothes-dealers, withered 
bodies which cling stubbornly to life, come forth victoriously 
like animals and leap to the battle. 

"You," said that body which in official documents is differ- 
entiated from other bodies by the name of de Roy — it is as 
good as any other — "you," it said, no longer troubling to 
be soft-voiced, "you will pay me my Albanian commission. 
If you don't — in '16 you told Lloyd's that a cargo of fuses 
for Belgian shrapnel had been sunk ; the insurance company 
paid up and actually you sent the fuses through Denmark 
into Germany." But the body which is differentiated from 
the other by the registered name of Zaharoff does not yield. 
In spite of the fact that it is hindered by an intricately woven 
shirt and what is called a morning-coat, it waves its arm 
in a gesture reminiscent of the orators of old Greece or of a 
Levantine carter in the fishmarket and vents its spleen. " Sent 
them to Germany, did I ? Ha ! ha 1 Three hundred and sixty- 
four thousand pounds I made on that. And I didn't need to 
forge Albanian orders for gas shells. Farewell I Fare well I 
And the little red-haired woman smiles to me when I cross 
the promenade." 



ALMOST A MYTHOLOGICAL FIGURE 1 93 

But M. de Roy has his reply. He can state that the Albanian 
orders were not forged, but a rogue always thinks that every- 
body else is a rogue, and, as for faring well, that's a relative 
term and for his part he finds that his dear Sir Basil is not very 
far from going completely ga-ga, and if you want proof, you've 
only to remember that he thought that that red-haired young 
female actually smiled at an old wreck of a Greek and not at 
him, M. de Roy. Ah, M. de Roy didn't say all that in such words, 
so we. won't make a long tale of it. Finally for the fourth time, 
and, as he declared with horrid oaths, for the last time, he 
demanded his Albanian commission or he wouldn't answer 
for the catastrophic consequences. Mr. Zaharoff refused him 
in a long explanation in a high voice in which he drew not so 
stupid a deduction from de Roy's need of money regarding 
the real value of his chervonetzes. And then M. de Roy 
thought it time to put an end to a vain interview, and as, besides, 
their argument had gone on before the doors of the Casino 
to the increasing interest of passers-by, the duel came to a 
sudden end on the part of the one who decided to cry finis. 
Once again they became the soft-spoken aristocrats with their 
morning-coats and top-hats and their bodies, suddenly dis- 
appearing from view, atoned for their intemperance in silence, 
solitude, and darkness. They parted a little coldly, but they 
did not omit to shake hands. M. de Roy's little game had failed. 



IV 

THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE 

The Government of your country ! I am the Govern- 
ment of your country, I and Lazarus. Do you suppose 
that you and half a dozen amateurs like you, sitting 
in a row in that foolish gabble-shop, govern Undershaft 
and Lazarus ? No, my friend, you will do what pays 
us. You will make war when it suits us and keep peace 
when it doesn't. . . . When I want anything to keep 
my dividends up, you will discover that my want is 
a national need. When other people want something 
to keep my dividends down, you will call out the 
police and military. And in return you shall have the 
support of my newspapers and the delight of imagin- 
ing that you are a great statesman. — Undershaft, the 
armament maker, in Shaw's Major Barbara. 

We are still in November 191 8. Our hero is now seventy. 
He is almost a mythological figure, a subject for authors — 
good grounds for thinking that this career of a meteor is 
nearing its end. 

Nothing of the sort. At a time of life which to others would 
be the evening of their days, the unbroken strength of purpose 
of this greybeard concentrates on its master-stroke, on an 
enterprise of such monstrous compass that the biographer, 
as a student of crime, who has now to walk laboriously 
through tracts hitherto untrod, can hardly believe his own 
eyes, did not circumstance follow circumstance with deadly 
logic. We come now to Basil ZaharofFs emulation of Alex- 
ander's expedition, to the greatest raid which world history 
knows. No, not knows, now learns of. The actors : England, 
France, Greece, Turkey, Germany, Irak, the Wahabites, 
Kurdistan, the United States, the Druses, and the League of 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE 195 

Nations. And Mr. Zaharoff. If what in the earlier chapters we 
have been compelled to tell of Zaharoff is fiction, invention, 
fable, the truth which we are now going to learn is even more 
fabulous. 

It is a tale of oil. We have to begin by going far back into 
the past and to quite another quarter of the globe. 

Somewhere about 1600, Indians showed a French Francis- 
can missionary a black pond with a thick, unpleasant-smelling, 
and marvellous water. This marvellous water was used for 
medicine ; then it was discovered that it was inflammable, 
and it was occasionally used for lighting. Then Mr. Rockefeller 
in Cleveland took a hand and made an industry out of it. 
When the industry grew so much as to become an exporting 
industry, people began to turn their attention to this power- 
fully smelling product of the earth in other places. Among 
those who sought for the new fashionable product — it was 
beginning to be realized that the future would belong to him 
who could control it — were two men of the true conquistador 
type, William Knox d'Arcy, an Anglo-Australian, and Colby 
M. Chester. This Mr. Chester was by profession an American 
rear-admiral, and had been sent to Turkey in 1899 with an 
American squadron to demonstrate against the massacres of 
the Armenians. The success of the demonstration is doubt- 
ful. But what is certain is that he must have smelled oil. 
Should we mention that a part of the Armenian nation, to 
their good fortune or ill, was settled on land under which 
oil was hidden ? Mr. Chester, then, smelled this oil. He hurried 
home ; he resigned his post ; he returned again to the Supreme 
Porte and demanded a concession for the construction of a 
railway and the oil and mineral rights in Anatolia, Irak, and 
Mesopotamia. 

Meantime, Mr. d'Arcy, the second of the two conquista- 
dores, had gone to Persia, and in 1901 had obtained from the 
Shah a monopoly for sixty years for the exploitation of five- 
sixths of the oil fields in Persian territory. For that he paid 



196 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

20,000 dollars and promised a further 20,000 and a small 
share in the net profits. Then he went to London, founded a 
company for the exploitation of the concession obtained in so 
praiseworthy a manner — later that company was not unknown 
to fame under the name of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company — 
and went back to the East to see if there were any more 
chances of doing business. His travels took him to Constanti- 
nople. But in Constantinople our ex-admiral Mr. Chester had 
established himself and was still negotiating with Abdul 
Hamid. He had cut down his demands a little. The concessions 
which he asked now did not embrace the whole of Anatolia, 
Irak, and Mesopotamia, but were confined to two modest 
vilayets, but vilayets obviously and literally stinking with 
oil, the vilayets of Bagdad and Mosul. But even these modest 
wishes were met by that excellent business man, the sultan, 
with true Eastern coolness, and he kept the American waiting 
so long with promises that Mr. d'Arcy had time to arrive in 
Constantinople on his return journey from London, hear of 
Mr. Chester's efforts, and at once declare that he, too, was a 
bidder for the Mosul concession. 

Whereupon the Deutsche Bank put in an appearance and 
announced that it was going to make a third in the compe- 
tition. 

Whereupon that pious and excellent business man, Abdul 
Hamid, took this decision : First of all he transferred the 
vilayets of Bagdad and Mosul from the Turkish state to his 
own private estate. (The Armenians who were permanently 
settled there were, for religious and nationalist reasons, partly 
driven from the land, partly massacred by the Kurds and 
Turks who were still more permanently settled.) Then to 
Mr. Chester the sultan gave — nothing. Then he sold the 
concession to the Germans — this was that Anatolian railway 
concession of 1904, with the rights of boring and exploitation 
for Bagdad and Mosul which later became famous. Thereupon 
he got ready to sell this same concession a second time to 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE 1 97 

Mr. d'Arcy and the Anglo-Persian Company so that they 
would not feel themselves slighted. Unfortunately a slight 
accident happened to the Sultan Abdul Hamid ; the Young 
Turk revolution broke out and he was overthrown. 

That gave Mr. Chester, who had gone away empty-handed, 
a chance. And there are people who say that Abdul Hamid 
never would have been overthrown if Mr. Chester had not 
been refused the concession. Even this time, however, Mr. 
Chester did not get a formal concession. But at least he got 
the written promise that he would get a concession. There 
never was any question of ratifying this Chester concession, 
simply because under pressure of a common peril the English 
and the Germans hastened to join forces. Together they 
founded — we are now in 191 2 — the Turkish Petroleum 
Company, and compelled the Young Turks to recognize 
in favour of the new company all the rights over which 
Abdul Hamid had haggled ten years earlier. It was all settled 
by 1 9 14 — and that was the last joint diplomatic effort on the 
part of Britain and Germany for some time. Once again the 
American Chester had lost the trick. But between the new 
partners there was soon a slight rift. The English tried to 
force the Germans out of the company and the Germans the 
English. That rift, that rivalry, and some others of the same 
kind were very shortly afterwards carried on by other means. 
Those means are known as the World War. 

Now it had broken out and things became slightly con- 
fused. The British attack on the Dardanelles thus takes on a 
new aspect. As that attack was beaten back by the excellent 
guns of Mr. Zaharoff, the second attack came from the south 
in the direction of Mosul itself. But the Germans realized 
the real issues at stake in the war ; the Mesopotamian enterprise 
of the Anglo-Indian expeditionary force was parried, and the 
result was the catastrophe of General Townshend. You may 
read the details in the Memoirs of Lloyd George. For the present, 
however, let us examine dates a little more closely. The capture 

Q* 



198 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

of General Townshend and his men in Kut-el-Amara happened 
on April 28, 1916, and on May 16th, that is, just a little more 
than a fortnight after, Sir Mark Sykes, who went out as the 
plenipotentiary of Sir Edward Grey, concluded with M. 
Georges Picot, the authorized envoy of M. Paul Cambon, an 
agreement which laid down, first, that the French were to be 
represented alongside the British on the war fronts in the East, 
and, second, that the British would support French claims to 
Syria and Mosul. 

What were Britain's reasons for concluding the "Sykes- 
Picot Agreement" ? One view is that Britain, which did not 
want to have any common frontiers with Russia, by this agree- 
ment simply pushed the French between them. Others say 
that all this happened during the days of the German attack 
on Verdun, and that the people in London wanted to encourage 
the French, who were not very far from collapse, by dangling 
the golden fruits of the East under their noses. And there is a 
third view which believes that the concessions to the French 
were made simply because General Townshend had just 
capitulated and that it was an easy matter for Britain to 
renounce something which it did not possess. Whatever the 
reasons may have been the Sykes-Picot treaty was concluded, 
and apart from the fact that by it they were dividing the skin 
of a bear which was very far from being dead, there were 
one or two flaws in it. 

The British, in May 191 6, had presented to the French 
Mosul, which they did not possess, but in October 191 5 they 
had presented this same Mosul by another secret treaty to the 
Arabs. Here we come to the Pan-Arab nationalist "shereefian 
movement" started by Col. Lawrence, the rebellion of the 
Arabs who had ceased to be nomadic against the Turks. 
The leader of this movement was the Grand Shereef Hussein 
of Mecca. With him, then, Sir Arthur Henry Macmahon, 
a "Shell" man, concluded an agreement in October 191 5, 
by which the Arab lands were to form an "independent league 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE 1 99 

of states in alliance with Britain." Hussein was to receive 
a kingdom of the Hedjaz and become Caliph, and his four sons 
were to receive the other Arab states including the area which, 
six months later, was promised to the French. When we 
remember the promises also made to the Jews which were 
certainly not in accord with the Pan-Arab agreement it will 
be clearly seen that Britain's chief anxiety was to win the war ; 
after that — well, one could always negotiate. 

Where are we now ? In May 191 6. In 1917 the British again 
advanced towards Mosul, but this advance, too, failed to attain 
its objective. Then there came revolution up in the north-east ; 
the Russian ally dropped out and other cares took up all their 
attention. And so it came about that Mosul was not occupied by 
the British until 191 8, after the collapse of the Central Powers. 
Thus we have followed the threads as they were spun to that 
November of 191 8 when in Paris the task of redividing up the 
globe was taken in hand. 

But there is one short thread which we have still to follow. 
Here we come to France itself and its situation with regard 
to oil policy. Before 1914 the French market was held by the 
Anglo-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell, and its chief, Henri Deter- 
ding, a gentleman who was recommended to the British 
Government by Lord Fisher as "a Napoleon in daring and a 
Cromwell in thoroughness." It was only during the war that 
the French realized that oil is necessary if a country is to be 
a world Power — during the war, when aeroplanes hummed 
up above, when the last French reserves were hurried up to 
the line in the commandeered taxis of Paris, when the tanks 
began to decide battles. "Motorization of the army" was the 
new slogan, and it was just then that France was left in the 
lurch by her former purveyors. All the oil that Shell could 
obtain during the war years had been taken over by Britain 
for her navy and her army. The Anglo-Dutch company 
became steadily transformed more and more into a purely 
English company. Mr. Deterding became a Knight of the 



200 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

British Empire, and was celebrated by the former head of 
the British Press department in his book called The Shell 
that hit Germany Hardest. There it is again — a national hero. 
Meantime the French market had been captured by the great 
American competitor, Mr. Rockefeller's Standard Oil. And 
thus we come once again to that November of 191 8 and are 
now able to survey the situation so that we may understand 
what follows. 

What did follow was the intervention of Basil ZaharofF 
in the Anglo-French war. After fruitful diplomatic preparation 
it broke out in November 19 18 at the Paris Conference, and 
it ended on March 15, 1925, with the Peace of Mosul. It is the 
British political tradition to clip the wings of the strongest 
Power on the Continent. The strongest Power on the Conti- 
nent was Germany ; so in 1914 Britain had to go to war with 
her, to a little war in the boardroom of the Turkish Petroleum 
Company, and in one or two other boardrooms ; then this 
little war was extended a little and is known as the World War. 
But in November 191 8 France was the strongest Power on the 
Continent so, as far as British policy was concerned, it auto- 
matically took the place which Germany had once held, and 
the war-aim of Britain in the Anglo-French war which now 
broke out, though not in a military form, was — the crippling, 
or at least the checking, of France's power. The nearest way, 
the easiest, and the " most peaceful" way was that which led 
over oil. France possessed no oil, and without oil, if one had 
learned the lesson of the World War, a Great Power is not 
a Great Power. Thus sheer necessity made the Anglo-French 
war an oil war. It had a foreign front — Mosul. And the 
struggle of the French for this source of supply, the only one 
which, as a result of the repartitioning of the world, was 
practically accessible, now takes on its true aspect, and reveals 
itself to be a life and death struggle. But in this war there was 
a home front, too ; it was carried on in France itself, and the 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE 201 

British aim was to win back the internal French market which 
had been lost during the World War by the sudden discovery 
on the part of Mr. Deterding that he was an English patriot. 
There could be no question of Englishmen, even suddenly 
discovered Englishmen like Mr. Deterding, taking the lead 
in the fight in a France where national feeling was aroused, 
and which had become profoundly distrustful of the ally 
on the other side of the Channel. But there was a Frenchman. 
The founder of a home for French seamen, the donor of 
university chairs, the proprietor of newspapers, the wearer 
of a high order of the Legion of Honour — in short, Mr. Basil 
Zaharoff. And thus it came about that the gentleman with 
the imperial whom we had thought ripe for retirement, 
intervened in the Anglo-French war at the age of seventy. 

If there is anyone who is surprised that the part he played 
in this war is contested and, for the most part, until these 
lines were published, remained wrapped in obscurity, he has 
either not read this biography or has failed to understand 
it. Zaharoff's position and his motives are debatable. Was he 
director-in-chief ? Was he only a business man without interest 
in politics who tried to get hold of a line which so far he had 
neglected ? Did he, perhaps, act as an English patriot ? Or was 
he directed rather than director ? Was he the mouthpiece of 
British policy, the agent of that fabulous intelligence service 
of whose comprehensive activities the French are so ready to 
supply us with abundant evidence ? We have no opinion ; 
we shall just chronicle events, after having begged for the 
sympathy of the reader. The jungle through which we shall 
try to trace Sir Basil Zaharoff's tracks in the next few years 
is actually one of the most tangled and confused to be found 
in the whole range of political and economic history, and where 
by pure chance some light gets into it or a prospect opens up, 
what is revealed is so extraordinary that it is difficult not to 
believe that one's eyes are deceiving one. 

Just as in 1 914 Mr. Basil Zaharoff had proved his strategic 



202 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

insight by beginning to buy up armament shares weeks and 
months before the outbreak of the World War, so now, it 
seems, he had scented even before the collapse of the Germans, 
the outbreak of the Anglo-French war. The resolve to make a 
campaign in France must actually have been taken in the early 
summer of 191 8. It began — as every action of Mr. Zaharoff 
in France begins — with his founding a chair, the Chair of 
English Literature in the Sorbonne, and with his promotion 
in the Legion of Honour. He became Grand Officer in June 
191 8. Here we may see that "second intention" which is as 
much an accompaniment of all the Zaharoff actions as is the 
signature of the artist is of a painting. And now Mr. Zaharoff 
occupied his strategic position as early as the summer of 191 8, 
that is to say, as far as the Anglo-French war is concerned, 
in the very heyday of peace. For his financial offensive he de- 
ployed in three columns. We must study closely the direction 
of deployment, for on the understanding of that depends the 
understanding of all that follows. 

Column 1, then. Let us recollect the duel which Zaharoff 
fought with the Schneider company in Russia, and in the 
course of which he suddenly, and to the painful discomfiture 
of his opponent, appeared as a partner in Le Creusot. Tacti- 
cally we may put it thus : when Zaharoff wants to drive an 
opponent from a foreign field, he first of all establishes himself 
at enemy headquarters. This time the opponent was not 
Schneider, but France. The law of Germinal of the Year Nine 
lays down in its fourteenth article that 

no one may be a member of the general assembly of the Bank 
of France who does not enjoy the rights of French citizenship. 

Now let us go to the Chamber of Deputies and look in at the 
session of July 26, 191 8. An annoying questioner, Jean Bon by 
name ; a Finance Minister, Klotz by name, and this dialogue : 

bon. Take the list of the two hundred chief shareholders who 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE 203 

take part in the General Assembly. Will you look at the 
name that comes last in the list. It is ZaharoffI 

klotz. M. Zaharoff is a Frenchman. 

bon. He is not a Frenchman. On July 12, 191 8, on the recom- 
mendation of the Minister for Foreign Affairs he received 
a decoration as "member of the Board of Directors of the 
firm of Vickers-Maxim and a great friend of France." Next 
day the Temps, too, wrote that M. Zaharoff was certainly 
3 great friend of France, but that he was no Frenchman. 

klotz. Newspapers can make a mistake. 

bon. Can you give me the date when M. Zaharoff was 
naturalized ? 

klotz. I haven't it with me. But the Chamber no doubt will 
believe me when I assure it that M. Zaharoff is a French- 
man and has performed most important services to France 
and her Allies. 

Complimentary, very complimentary to our hero. And 
M. Jean Bon spoke merely out of patriotic excitement and 
without any ulterior motive. For the moment we may only 
note that Mr. Zaharoff succeeded in his manoeuvre. That the 
information supplied by the Finance Minister was later shown 
to be false, that could not alter the facts of the situation. 
Not only did Mr. Zaharoff sit in the Bank of France ; Mr. 
Zaharoff was a Frenchman. And now he could let his second 
column advance. 

Only he did not need to make it march, for all unnoticed 
it had already reached its objective, and was there digging 
itself in. This is where we come to the position of Mr. Zaharoff 
on the Banque de l'Union parisienne, that bank belonging 
to the French heavy industry behind which he concealed him- 
self before the war in order to take Le Creusot by surprise. 
Now, when he had consolidated his position in Le Creusot 
and as a result of close co-operation during the World War 
had become a very intimate partner of M. Schneider, he reversed 
the process, and as this Banque de l'Union parisienne had, 
in the meantime, developed into one of the two most powerful 



204 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

of the big banks of France — but let us this time read what the 
Germans have to say. In a series of books issued by the School 
of Politics in Berlin there is an elaborate investigation — 
Oelpolitik und angelsaechsischer Imperialisms — by Karl Hoffman 
which can be most useful if the reader uses it with a little 
caution. The author, whose method is thoroughly scientific, 
is here and there afflicted with persecution mania. In this oil 
war the Germans had persecution mania, the French had it, 
and even the Americans. Only the British kept their nerve. 
And, of course, Basil Zaharoff. Herr Hoffman, who is deeply 
versed in his subject, writes : 

The measures taken in Paris by the Shell group in the days 
after the war were taken in concert with the Banque de l'Union 
parisienne. This, since the war days, was under the influence 
mainly of Sir Basil Zaharoff, a Greek by birth, who in the gay 
world of Paris was the representative and incarnation of the 
British oil and industrial interests, e.g. the Vickers-Armstrong 
company. Here he appeared as a "French banker." Only later 
did the public in Paris realize that he was one of the most 
powerful inspirers of British policy. 

You can see, Herr Hoffmann is well informed. It is important 
for us to remember one piece of information which he supplies, 
that Mr. Zaharoff "appeared as a French banker." Here we 
see the third column advancing. 

Column i, the position in the Bank of France, was evidently 
much too official, and — as can be seen from the questions put 
by M. Jean Bon — much too much in the limelight to be used 
profitably for the business of everyday life. Column ir, the 
position in the Banque de l'Union parisienne, was a little more 
elastic, but all Mr. Zaharoff's business could not suitably be 
done through a big bank in which he had as partners Messrs. 
Schneider and the whole of the French heavy industry. So 
Column hi had to march to a special objective for his own 
private ends. A private bank. The private bank over which 
Mr. Zaharoff got control was called "Mayer freres" ; he trans- 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE 20 J 

formed it and called it the "Banque de la Seine," and we have 
to mention his henchmen and his satellites who appear in the 
list of founders, so as to recognize them when we meet them 
again. Here we find Mr. Francis Barker. We know him ; 
he is the gentleman who issued that defiant declaration in 
connection with the Echo de Paris incident in 1914 to the 
effect that Vickers had nothing to do with Putiloffand knew of 
Krupp only from hearsay. Then there is Mr. L. H. G. Walford, 
who is married to one of the daughters of the Duchess of 
Villafranca, those daughters whom Mr. Zaharoff has made 
his heirs. And then there is a M. Nicolas Pi6tri and a 
M. Ldon Pissard who are quite worthy of our attention ; both 
have a trick of bobbing up on boards of directors wherever 
Mr. Zaharoff has a hand in the game. Other partners who 
have small shares are two private banks, Banque Thalman 
and the bank of that Mavrogordato family which has many 
business interests in common with Zaharoff and one member 
living in London as an ever-popular Pacifist and keen writer 
of letters to editors. But there is no need to burden memory 
further. In the course of 191 8 Mr. Basil Zaharoff in peace- 
time deployed in France, flamboyantly and openly in the 
Bank of France, as a big bank personality in the Banque de 
l'Union parisienne, and privately in Mayer freres, which he 
calls the Banque de la Seine. The position is consolidated, 
and he can now advance from it. 

The situation in France, meantime, became ripe for the 
first attack. Take one sentence from a memorandum addressed 
by M. Henry B6renger to the French Government : 

Whoever controls oil will control the world, for he will rule 
the seas with heavy oil, the air with refined oil, and the land 
with petrol and light oil. In addition, he will economically 
control his fellow-men because of the fantastic wealth which 
he can win from oil, that wonderful substance which the 
earth gives, which is so sought after to-day, and which is 
more valuable even than gold. 



206 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

So merchants turn poets. That transformation is in world 
history one of the surest signs of a coming war. 

We shall have failed to appreciate the state of nerves of 
the grande nation if we feel surprise that, as a result of this 
watchman's cry of M. Berenger, a cry of alarm went through 
France. A cry once again for a national industry. Oil for 
France I France for the French ! Now in the creation of national 
industries Mr. Zaharoff is an expert. In fact, it was he who 
invented "national industries." His columns are deployed. 
Now at the first shot they go into action. 

It is, first of all, only a manoeuvre of appeasement whose 
course we can trace, undertaken with the purpose of putting 
the Frenchness of Mr. Zaharoff beyond doubt. In the spring 
of 191 8 he had founded the chair in the Sorbonne, and for 
that, thanks to M. Clemenceau, had been made Grand Officer 
of the Legion in June 1918, and, as early as July 1918, sat as 
a "Frenchman" in the Bank of France. Now the oil shot 
rang out and shocked the national sentiment. On that Sir Basil 
required as rapidly as possible to have his Frenchness refur- 
bished. So in July 191 9 there followed the promotion of Sir 
Basil to the Grand Cross, the highest honour which France 
can give. It worked splendidly. But the manoeuvre developed 
further. M. Clemenceau had given his authority as Prime 
Minister to this last promotion, and as he had shown himself 
obliging in other respects in the preceding year — in the 
matter of a secret treaty which concerned the principality of 
Monaco, of which we shall possibly hear more later — one 
naturally had to be obliging to him in one's turn. To which 
we must add that there were still people in France who sus- 
pected an administrates dtiegui de la sociiti Vickers in days 
when once again there was a cry for a national industry. 
Something had to happen — and it did happen. Next month, 
in August 191 9, Mr. Zaharoff made a wholesale settlement 
of all his accounts. He founded a company called "Vickers 
francaise." It had no actual business function to fulfil, as may 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE lOf 

be seen from the fact that it renounced the manufacture of 
munitions so as not to annoy the friend in Le Creusot. But, 
in the first place, the name Vickers became de-Anglified in 
French ears ; in the second place, there was now a "national 
industry" in France, and, in the third place, the new foundation 
gave him a chance to return a favour. As Menevee says : 

In interested circles it is positively declared that M. Michel 
Clemenceau, a relation of M. Georges Clemenceau, is a member 
of the Board of Directors of Vickers francaise. 

This allegation of Menevde was indignantly denied. The denial 
held good for fifteen years, until a few months ago, when 
the Commission of the United States Senate encountered this 
M. Michel Clemenceau — as the representative in South America 
of Mr. Zaharoff. 

No commentary is needed. It is a typical Zaharoff transaction 
with many facets. 

But in dealing with this "action of incitement" on the part 
of Mr. Zaharoff, we must not lose sight of the great strategic 
lines of advance. Once again and in the old logical sequence 
we come to the conquest of France by the way of oil. When 
Mr. Zaharoff acted as a Frenchman, when he founded a 
Vickers francaise and took under his wing the Clemenceau 
family, he had not only defensive but also offensive intentions. 
He was on the point of carrying out a daring coup. Suddenly 
there arose a danger that France might yet escape and, apart 
from the Anglo-Saxon world-ruler, apart from Mosul, apart 
from any possible discovery on her own territory, make her- 
self independent. New oil fields were discovered in French 
Algeria. If these were productive, if they were exploited, 
then the British had lost the Anglo-French war even before 
the rival armies had come to battle. Then France was a Great 
Power and needed no protection. The whole business was at 
stake. If anywhere, then here the breach must be repaired. 

The business was complicated or, if you will, made simple, 



208 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

by the fact that the British a couple of years ago and more 
had smelled out this Algerian oil. As long ago as 191 5, 
in fact. Then Lord Murray, sent out by the oil company 
S. Pearson & Co., had tried to get an oil concession which 
was to include over 730,000 hectares of what was obviously 
oil-bearing land in Algeria. After long negotiations, the 
concession had been refused for national reasons. Now in 
January 19 19, for reasons which are known to us, England 
suddenly became pressing. Cost what it might, it had to get 
that Algerian concession before the French thought of shutting 
the land to the British. And now Mr. Basil Zaharoff took a 
hand in the game. The concession for this Algerian oil com- 
pany — the Societe d'Etudes, de Recherches et d'Exploitation 
des P^troles en Alg6rie — which had been refused to Lord 
Murray, was secured by Mr. Basil Zaharoff in the twinkling 
of an eye. As a result there appeared on the Board of Directors 
— oh, no, not another member of the Clemenceau family ! — 
a certain M. Olivier Sainsere, who was described as "a fellow 
Lorrainer and a personal friend of Poincare," and who was 
obviously a very suitable person to become an oil magnate 
because he had been previously an administrates de la 
Sociiti d' Assurances Universelles. Mr. Zaharoff had agreed 
that only one-third of the Board would come from England, 
and two-thirds would come from France. The Englishmen 
were the Lord Murray who had been refused the concession, 
and another gentleman. But we shall examine a little more 
closely the gentlemen whose presence on the Board was to 
be a guarantee of the French character of the company. There 
is no need to worry ; the Frenchman, Basil Zaharoff — whose 
Frenchness was still contested in January 191 9 and only 
furbished up again in July — is not among them. No, the 
Frenchmen are — if we except that friend of Poincare — M. 
L6on Pissard of the Banque de la Seine, who was described 
as "the man of straw of Sir Basil Zaharoff who, besides, 
controls the enterprises of M. Pissard," and M. Nicolas Pietri 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE 20C) 

of the Banque de la Seine, who was described as "the intimate 
friend of Clemenceau and Zaharoff, of whom he is the agent," 
and finally a man above suspicion, M. Maurice Carrier, who 
had no connection at all with the Banque de la Seine — but 
only with another Zaharoff company, "Le Nickel." You can 
see that the gentleman with the imperial has once again suc- 
ceeded in founding a "national industry." And he had every 
reason, a month or two later, to get further proof of his French- 
ness through the Legion of Honour and to register the firm 
of Vickers francaise as a French firm — with a relative of M. 
Georges Clemenceau on the Board. And during the year yet 
another gentleman was summoned to the Board of this 
Algerian oil company — M. le Comte Leon Ostrorog. We do 
not know this nobleman. But we have among our papers a 
report — in many points reporting without any idea of the 
significance of what it does report — from a detective agency 
in Constantinople about Sir Basil ZaharofF's relations. There 
one may read : 

Zaharoff married in Spain. His wife was a Spaniard (Jewess). 
Zaharoff had two daughters. 

i. Madame Ostrologue (divorced); at her marriage ceremony 
she gave as her father's name not "Zaharoff" but "Basil I" 

2. Unknown. 

Count John Ostrologue now lives in Constantinople. Busi- 
ness : commission agent. His brother is in the French Consulate. 
Countess Ostrologue (Zaharoff's daughter) was well known 
in Stambul as the unique "protector of dogs and cats." Is said 
to have died of a disease which she got from her animals. 

It may profit the reader to have this reproduction of the original 
text of a Turkish Sherlock Holmes. It needs some dis- 
entangling. The Duchess of Villafranca (it is the Duchess who 
certainly must be meant by the "Spaniard (Jewess)" unless, 
indeed, "Jewess" may take us back to Haje Elka Karolinski 
of WilkomLr, but Mr. Haim Manelewitsch Sahar had no 
sisters), the Duchess, I say, had in fact three daughters : Helen, 



210 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

who died (and might be identical with that "protector of dogs 
and cats") ; Mrs. Leopold Walford, wife of that Mr. L. H. G. 
Walford discovered by us on the board of that "Banque de la 
Seine" ; and Angela, Princesse de Bourbon, formerly Countess 
Ostrorog (not Ostrologue). Anyway, that Count Ostrorog so 
closely related to Mr. Zaharoff was identical with, or at least 
related to, the nobleman on the Board of the Algerian Oil 
Company. 

Mr. Basil Zaharoff, then, by making a detour via a "national 
foundation," came into control of the Algerian oil resources, 
which were in a position to decide the Anglo-French oil war. 
But anyone who thinks that was the end of the coup does not 
know our hero. It was really only now that it began. Our 
authority of the Documents politique* knows a little about the 
business success of the new company. And although he does 
not know the connection between it and the great coup he puts 
the situation in a very clear light : 

By 1920 twelve wells were in operation. Then in an extra- 
ordinary way borings were now unsuccessful although they 
were made in an area which was extremely promising. Later 
they all had to be abandoned, a circumstance which in interested 
circles gave rise to some very queer rumours. It was known 
that it was in the interests of the foreign oil trust that France 
should not discover any oil wells on her own soil or in any of 
her colonial territories, for then she would remain permanently 
under the control of the foreign oil producers. 

That means that Mr. Basil Zaharoff had got control of the 
Algerian oil fields not to exploit them but to prevent exploit- 
ation. We only hope that the friend of M. Poincare" did not 
as a result of this business failure lose his director's fees. 
It was a bold stroke. And, as France needed oil, she had once 
again to revive her Mosul hopes and — receive imports. 
Looked at strategically, the position was that the enemy had 
been prevented from rolling up the front ; the fighting had been 
localized. 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE 211 

What did Paris make of that ? We can read in the Documents 
politiques : 

Consequently we regard with special interest the relations of 
Lloyd George with ... Sir Basil Zaharoff. Through Lloyd 
George, Mr. ZaharorT has the same influence with the British 
Government as he used to have with the French Government, 
thanks to Clemenceau. And it is most proper that M. Nicolas 
Pietri, whose relations with . . . Mr. Zaharoff we have ex- 
plained, is also in very close relations with Clemenceau and 
the affairs of the Clemenceau family. He belongs to the Board 
of the Berna Milk company, one of the enterprises of M. 
Dutasta, whose relationship with Clemenceau is well known. This 
company during the war drew its main profits from the sale of 
condensed milk for the use of the German troops. 

All that appears still more significant when one re- 
members that Lord Murray, who played his part ... in 
the "Societe d'Etudes, de Recherches et d'Exploitation des 
Petroles en Algerie," was in France closely connected with 
Mr. Zaharoff's man of straw, and M. Poincare's special friend, 
M. Olivier Sainsere. Here is a circumstance which one has 
to remember if one is to understand the attitude of Poincare 
to Zaharoff. 

We may pardon this wild search for combinations on the part 
of the French, who were excited, and not without good 
cause. But we have an excellent example here to what lengths 
the searching for niggers in the woodpile may go. It needs 
only another step on and you have Mr. Lloyd George in 
partnership with M. Clemenceau and M. Poincare delivering 
condensed milk to the German army during the war ! 

But let us return to our strategical studies. The Algerian 
breach has been stopped ; the only trump card left to the 
French was their hopes of Mosul's oil. Once again Mr. Basil 
Zaharoff had delivered the goods in an exemplary, not to say 
masterly, manner. 

It was in 191 8 that we left off our study of the affairs of Mosul. 
Let us explain the situation once again. Britain had promised 



212 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

Mosul, which she had not previously had, as a result of military 
occupation ; at the same time France possessed it by the 
Sykes-Picot agreement, and so did the Arabs by the Hussein- 
Macmahon agreement. Britain had won the war. Mosul was 
held by British troops, and now Downing Street was confronted 
by the problem of making good the promises that had been 
made. That where possible the French claims should be can- 
celled out by the Arab ones, and the Arab ones by the French, 
was a strategic necessity imposed by the facts of the case. 
The circumstances of the case were favourable to such a 
solution. In the first place, it was possible to browbeat the 
Arabs by telling them that Sir Arthur Henry Macmahon, 
who had concluded treaties with them during the war, had 
not been authorised to do so by the Foreign Office. In the 
second place, it was discovered that there was an important 
inaccuracy in the Sykes-Picot agreement, that in it there was 
mention of Syria and Mosul but obviously — in order to 
get the simplest formula — only of a Syria which in the east 
reached the vilayet of Mosul without any specific pledge 
that the eastern frontier of that Syria should exclude, include, 
or divide the oil-bearing areas. Here there was such a wealth 
of diplomatic talent at work and the stake was so high that it 
would be contrary to etiquette to use ethical rather than 
political standards. But Britain could not pursue with regard 
to the Arabs such a simple policy as that of doubting the full 
powers of her envoy when she remembered that she was 
dealing with an Islam which embraced the eternal problem of 
India. Because, therefore, it would not have been the worst 
solution to have an independent Arabia "in alliance with 
England" on the map, this theory of the dubiety of Sir Henry's 
plenipotentiary position was used simply as a minor means 
of exercising pressure in arranging the details of this alliance, 
and she proceeded to settle things at the expense of France, 
whose wings as the newly arisen strongest Continental Power 
must be clipped. And there was rich opportunity to do so 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE 21 3 

at the end of 191 8, when it came to partitioning the globe. 
M. Clemenceau was in a quandary. To him defeated Germany 
had not been sufficiently defeated. Both on the Rhine and on 
the Oder it remained much too strong. In order to arrange 
things in this sphere according to the heart's desire, the assent 
of the British partner was needed. And, as even among partners 
nothing is given for nothing in this world, all the stage was set 
from a gigantic bargaining. Let us hear what Berlin thought, 
from the pages of Herr Hoffmann, of the School of Politics : 

According to the secret minutes of the Big Four, Lloyd 
George had, as early as December 191 8, got Clemenceau to 
consent to the handing over of Palestine to Britain and to the 
political renunciation of Mosul. This arrangement was so 
delicate a one that even Pichon, Clemenceau's deputy and 
Foreign Minister, only learned of it after it had been made. In 
compensation France was to get a share of the oil plunder and 
— a free hand in Germany during the armistice period. 

And then comes the passage which is significant : 

Some days later, at Christmas 191 8, there happened, for 
instance, the Polish rising in Posen which created/«/Ar accomplis 
long before the signing of the Versailles Treaty. 

Is this allegation only the result of German persecution 
mania ? In one way it would be rather comforting to believe 
it was. But one must not forget that it was the utterance of a 
Germany which had not yet gone mad. What actually 
happened in the years immediately following do not fit in 
with the theory that this alleged interchange of minor 
courtesies was simply political anecdote. Actually we are 
now witnessing the birth of Lloyd George's so-called 
"see-saw policy" at the one end of which was the 
Mosul vilayet, and at the other the Ruhr. This policy was 
to give Messrs. Lloyd George, Clemenceau, and Zaharoff 
some anxious moments, which we shall share. 

This bargaining between Lloyd George and Clemenceau 
remained just as secret as the whole battle for Mosul between 



214 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

France and England — until the turn of the year 1919-1920. 
Then Britain could hold out no longer and handed over to 
France — oh, no, not Mosul, but at least the oft-promised 
Syria. And now things went thus : On January 1, 1920, Britain 
handed over Syria, and in March the Syrian Druses broke out 
in rebellion and showed the new French masters of the land 
that they were anything but the masters of the land. It was a 
thorny business. Without wishing in any way to take sides, 
let us simply state that two years later the French — having 
on the occasion of another rising found the Druses and two 
other annoying tribes in possession of arms made by Vickers — 
stated plainly and bluntly that if it was not England who had 
been behind both Druse risings, it was at least Mr. Basil 
Zaharoff. We shall have to say something about that later. 
But at the moment of the first Druse rising there was, to be 
sure, no question of such "revelations," and the French confined 
themselves to quenching the rebellion in blood. Whereupon 
Feisal, the son of Hussein, in virtue of the Macmahon treaty, 
proclaimed himself King of Syria without more ado, and 
declared, indeed, that Mosul belonged to Syria — but that 
Syria belonged to him. Whereupon the French quenched 
his movements in blood and drove him out of the country. 

Why did Britain thus heat the water for the French ? Why did 
the French repel this indirect attack with such fury ? Once 
again we can explain that best by referring to dates. The 
struggles lasted from January to the middle of April 1920. 
And in the middle of April they took the form, so to say, of 
pourparlers. At that time a conference was in session in San 
Remo which was to settle and guarantee for all time the fate 
of the Mosul area — and to create faits accomplis down there in 
the South-east was very much to the taste of both parties. 
What we know as the war with Feisal, the guerilla fighting 
of the Druses, and the occupation of the Straits was nothing 
more than the back stage for ten gentlemen who smoked 
fat cigars on the Riviera, and chatted about petrol. The 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE 21 J 

result : when the French, in spite of their unfriendly welcome, 
laid about them vigorously, when Feisal and the Druses got the 
worst of it, the French had to be given something. Quite a big 
something — fully 25 per cent. — England received 75 per cent, 
of the Mosul oil. The Americans, in spite of protests, got 
nothing. 

That then was the eternal oil peace of San Remo. At the 
moment when its signatories were setting their names to the 
agreement they thought of nothing else than of seeing in it 
only another "scrap of paper." To that end the events that 
now happened in the East went on functioning of their own 
accord. The French had a bone to pick with the British 
enemy-ally. The British had been thoughtless enough to 
occupy Constantinople and make themselves thoroughly 
unpopular with the Turks. From France's point of view 
was not something to be expected of an awakening Turkey ? 
So the French saw to it that Turkey awoke — a national Turkish 
State with its capital in Angora and hostile to England. This 
new Mohammedan state, hostile to England and protected 
by France, was now the chief danger for the British. They 
would, no doubt, have been able to come to some arrange- 
ment with it, but the French had blocked the way. So the 
new State had to be destroyed. To take the field against it in 
person was impossible by sheer weight of political tradition — 
and in any case it would have set all Islam in flames. So since 
the French had once more succeeded in rolling up the front, 
Lloyd George on his side was compelled to send new corps 
into the firing line. And as there were, for very good reasons, 
no British corps available, he looked for them elsewhere. 
That is the historical background for one of the most astound- 
ing adventures which contemporary history knows, the private 
war of a single individual, a private individual to boot, the now 
septuagenarian Basil Zaharoff against a mighty, populous, 
and still, or once again, Great Power. 

Since we left Mr. Zaharoff pulling the wires in his marionette 



21 6 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

theatre in Athens in 191 7, there is something more to tell. 
The war has been won ; four gentlemen in Paris have played 
their game and remade the map ; they played the game out, 
thronged by petitioners, protesters, intriguers, apostles, and 
delegates who made war on one another, outcried each other, 
undermined each other, pushed and quarrelled to get a place 
at the great food trough. And among them there suddenly 
bobbed up M. Venizelos. He came forward — in the spring of 
1 91 9 — waving in his hand a Turkish proclamation inciting 
to a massacre of the Christians in Smyrna. Is it genuine ? 
There is not much time to examine it ; the Big Four have many 
other cares, and besides, this intervention of M. Venizelos 
is under the very highest protection. Sir Basil Zaharoff 
embraces the Greek cause I And as the Big Four have, as a 
result of the defection of the Italians, been transformed into 
the Big Three, of whom Lloyd George and Clemenceau 
rely on their friend with the imperial, and as the last of the 
Three, the angel of peace from over the seas, possibly does 
not know very accurately where Smyrna is, M. Venizelos 
receives the mandate to land his Greeks in Smyrna and prevent 
the threatened massacre. So it happens, and M. Venizelos 
stays, and is able to remain in Smyrna — and has, in spite of 
mild advice from Paris to go away again, created one of those 
beloved faits accomplis for the forthcoming peace negotiations 
with the Turks. 

That was how things stood in the early summer of 1920, 
when out of those seasonal necessities which we know so 
well the latest French mode was created — the national anglo- 
phobe Turkey. And thus it happened that M. Venizelos 
was once again invited to Paris to confer with his patron 
Basil Zaharoff. And then things began to cloud over again. 

What did happen there ? 

One version, that of the ex-premier D., which is also the 
official version of the Venizelists, may be repeated simply as 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE 217 

a curiosity. I asked him if — no, I simply stated as a notorious 
fact that Basil Zaharoff had financed Greece's war against 
Turkey. To that the premier replied : "Financed ? He never 
gave a pound for that war ; he only felt it rather flattering 
that people could think he could lose so much." 

But if that is the official version of the time there must 
have been earlier among the Venizelists another more passion- 
ate report, and one less deadlily wrapped in silence. You will 
encounter it if you speak to old gentlemen from Greece, 
men like our authority Ch. the banker, the same who was so 
unswervingly convinced of Zaharoff's murder of a policeman. 
He knew positively — and let it be seen that in his capacity 
as banker he had been concerned in the conveyance of the 
funds — that this war was financed by Zaharoff. To which he 
adds : 

Zaharofflet our Venizelos down. Zaharoff and Lloyd George I 
We Greeks were bled white for Zaharoff. And it cost us much 
more than he paid, and when we asked for some of what we 

had spent back, we didn't get a drachma. That (here 

followed a selection of insulting epithets from Homer). 

Now the information does not seem to be quite of the sort 
on which one would care to rely. 

Let us go further. The gist of the second version is that 
Basil Zaharoff and Lloyd George let the innocent Venizelos 
down. The third version is quite different. It is the Anglo- 
French one, and it alleges that Lloyd George was let down 
by Basil Zaharoff and Venizelos. In this connection let us 
read the oblique attack of Aubrey Herbert as it is revealed 
in the records of the British Parliament : 

June 14, 1920. — The Hon. Aubrey Herbert asked the Prime 
Minister whether Sir Basil Zaharoff was consulted with regard 
to the Turkish Treaty. 

The Prime Minister : The answer is in the negative. 

No progress that way. So a week later Herbert tried again. 



21 8 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

June 23, 1920. — The Hon. Aubrey Herbert asked why Sir 
Basil Zaharoff was not consulted with regard to the Turkish 
Treaty. 

Mr. Bonar Law : I do not understand the object of my 
honourable friend's question. 

The Hon. Aubrey Herbert : Is it not a fact that this dis- 
tinguished Greek gentleman paid for the Smyrna expedition 
out of his own pocket and controls the greater amount of the 
shares of Vickers-Maxim ? 

But even by that way he could make no progress. Bonar Law 
turned it off with a jest : 

I was not aware of either of these facts, but I wish that he 
would defray the expenses of our own troops. 

Later, Aubrey Herbert tried yet a third tack and asked the 
Prime Minister : 

whether Sir Basil Zaharoff had been financially rewarded for his 
help and advice on the Eastern question. 

But he had no more luck this time than before. He was 
reduced to silence on a point of order : 

Mr. Chamberlain : I do not understand this question. If my 
honourable friend has any charge to formulate, I beg that he 
will state it in plain language. 

The Hon. Aubrey Herbert : May I ask your ruling, Mr. 
Speaker ? My great difficulty is that, according to the Rules of 
Procedure in this House, it is quite impossible to put down 
the kind of question which I wish to put down. I have been 
driven to put down the question in this form because that is 
the only way in which I can draw attention to the sinister 
influence of this great multi-millionaire. 

Mr. Speaker : That is just the point. An Hon. Member is not 
allowed to make insinuations in the form of a question. If 
the Hon. Member has a charge to make, he can make it in the 
form of a motion, but not in the form of a question. 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE 219 

Whereupon naturally the other side intervened and turned 
the tables on the questioner : 

Mr. T. P. O'Connor : Is not such a question, attributing 
sinister motives to a man who notoriously gave most valuable 
and disinterested service to the Allies during the war, an abuse 
of the rules of the House ? 

Mr. Speaker : There was a question tendered to me, but I 
struck out all the insinuations. 

Thus Aubrey Herbert's attack was hung up on the wire. You 
can see : even in the British Parliament Zaharoff does not 
lack friends and supporters. 

What I have just quoted will serve as a sample of the third 
version which, then, says that the innocent Lloyd George 
had been led astray in his Eastern policy by the two scoundrels, 
Zaharoff and Venizelos. But because of the circumstances of 
that policy, which we have already described, we cannot 
accept that. The much blamed Eastern policy of Lloyd George 
pleased England neither in its much too temperamental details 
nor in its final result, but it was not invented by Lloyd George. 
It was the result of a long process marked by the Macmahon 
agreement with Hussein, the Sykes-Picot treaty, the com- 
plaisances of Sir Edward Grey toward the French, and other 
things. He carried on his policy as the logical consequence 
of this heritage. That ought not to be overlooked, even if 
one still thinks that the chief political director of a world 
empire should have handled things at once more ably and 
more calmly. Sir Henry Wilson was driven to write : 

It simply comes to this that we cannot have the Empire and 
Lloyd George. It's too expensive. One of them must go. 

But let us leave that, and proceed to the fourth version. 
If the third version alleges that Lloyd George had been the 
tool of Basil Zaharoff, the fourth version, which is the real 
national French version, declares that Zaharoff was an agent 



220 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

of Lloyd George, precisely, that "agent of the Intelligence 
Service" of whom we have already heard. We have only to 
inquire of Mr. Albin E. Johnson, who in connection with the 
Shearer scandal expanded on the theme of Basil Zaharoff in 
the review La Lumihe. Someone "belonging to Lloyd George's 
more intimate circle" told him personally : 

We use Sir Basil Zaharoff as a kind of super-spy in high 
society and in influential circles. At the same time we have him 
watched by two or three of our best police agents. 

It is a pity that Mr. Johnson did not tell us the name of this 
person so worthy of confidence who belonged to the circle 
of a British Prime Minister. 

How many versions have we now ? One : Zaharoff had 
nothing whatever to do with the Greco-Turkish War. Two : 
He led Venizelos into that war. Three : He and Venizelos 
led Lloyd George into it. Four : He was led into it by Lloyd 
George. But the fifth version is still more sensational ; it 
comes from Greek monarchist circles ; it went via Skuludis to 
Lewinsohn, and it says that Zaharoff did finance the Greek 
campaign against the Turks, but neither as an instigator nor 
as one instigated, neither for the sake of England's interests 
nor his own, but for sheer love of country. For a greater 
Greece 1 For the dream of Byzantium 1 

Thus version five : Sir Basil Zaharoff the Greek patriot. 
Shall we say that each of these versions has a grain of truth 
and a good deal of falsehood in it ? That in its motives this 
action of Mr. Zaharoff is as complex and complicated as all 
his other deeds and adventures ? Perhaps we get nearest to 
the truth if we try once again to put his private bujiness and 
the business of high politics on the same table. 

What about dates in this summer and autumn of 1920 ? 
The Druses have been crushed ; the Emir Feisal has been 
driven out of Syria by the French ; the French have won not 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE 221 

unimportant successes at the San Remo Conference, and are 
conspiring with the awakening Turks — we are writing now 
of early summer 1920 — and the British counterstroke is now 
due. Then in all haste a bank was founded in Paris called the 
Banque commerciale de la Mediterrande, which at once, that 
is to say, on June 7, 1920, opened two branches in Constanti- 
nople, which was then occupied by the British. Thus it was an 
expression of French commercial activity in the land of the 
new Turkish friend, a demonstration on the Straits where the 
British had disembarked marines. France is at work ! Thus 
ran the headlines in the French papers welcoming the new 
action of French capital in the East. A political bank I There 
were good French names among those who shared in the 
bank's foundation. For instance, the president was a particu- 
larly happy choice, a genuine Frenchman born in Constanti- 
nople, by name Leon Pissard. He brings real good Frenchmen 
with him to the list of founders and to the board of directors — 
for instance, a private bank in Paris called Thalmann, and a 
Paris-Athens private bank called Mavrogordato fils, and at 
the end appears in this goodly company the Banque de la 
Seine itself. And last of all one may see so high a personage 
as a Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour. A certain Monsieur 
Zaharoff I 

Scarcely two weeks elapsed before more information was 
available on the reasons for the founding of this national 
French propaganda bank. The Banque Mediterranee, mean- 
time, despite its tender years, had already entered the ranks of 
founders of companies, and in all haste founded in Paris a 
"societe francaise des Docks et Ateliers de Constructions 
navales," and this company, though scarcely two days old 
(in which Vickers Limited with its Sir Vincent Caillard and 
"Monsieur le Comte Leon Ostrorog" now showed its face), 
equally developed at a tremendous pace. Before the third week 
in June it was displaying a furious activity with the object of 
getting transferred to it by the Turks that company founded 



222 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

by Vickers before the war — the Docks et Ateliers du Haut 
Bosphore — and with it to secure possession of the entire 
Turkish munition and ship-construction industry which 
depended on it. 

But let us say at once : this comprehensive scheme failed. 
The idea of Mr. Zaharoff through the detour — which we may 
now set down in our text-book — via a national new French 
bank and two intermediate States and positions for emitting 
smoke-screens to safeguard Vickers' capital, and also at the 
same time to filch from the Turks at a stroke their armament 
industry — that scheme failed through lack of time. The most 
unoriental haste of its promoters made the Turks suspicious. 
Or perhaps there came a warning from the ever watchful 
France. The session in which the Turks were to hand over 
their arsenals to Mr. Zaharoff took place on June 18, 1920. 
The Turks delayed signing and wanted another postponement. 
And then it was too late. Then it was seen why Mr. Zaharoff 
had been in so frantic a hurry. On June 22nd it was learned 
that the increased activity in the port of Smyrna, which 
had been reported by Turkish spies, had been the preliminaries 
to a great Greek offensive. A Greek army, equipped with 
Messrs. Vickers' most up-to-date weapons issued from Smyrna 
on June 22nd and marched against awakened Turkey. Mr. 
Zaharoff's claim to the docks on the Bosphorus had to be 
postponed. 

Thus we come to June 22, 1920. The story of this first 
stage of Zaharoff's war against the Turks is soon told. Turkey 
was in full confusion. The new nationalists of Angora, led 
by a certain Mustapha Kemal, were waging civil war against 
the adherents of the Sultan. So the Greeks met with little 
resistance, and marched inland from Smyrna and the Sea of 
Marmora. In a few weeks they were in possession of the 
best part of the Anatolian coastland. Then once again the 
French showed that they were on the watch, and the Italians 
that they were envious of the plunder, and, as at that moment it 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE 223 

was the pleasure of the haughty rulers in Paris to dictate the 
peace of Sevres, the Turks lost much, but the Greeks did not 
get all they had got as a result of their little-disturbed anabasis. 
None the less — there still remained the possibility of a "a man- 
date" for Smyrna and an extensive hinterland. If one takes it 
that the aim of the Anglo-Zaharoff war was the destruction of 
Turkey, then that aim, in spite of a victorious advance and 
many conquests, had not yet been gained. And to bring 
still more pressure to bear, to maintain the offensive, to think 
of modifications — of all that Mr. Basil Zaharoff was not free 
to think in the course of the next few months. For the watch- 
fulness of the French which put the brake on the offensive 
of his Greeks, which four days before the war began had 
countered him in the matter of the acquisition of the Turkish 
arsenals — this watchfulness led to a counter-attack on another 
front and drove Mr. Basil Zaharoff and the whole Shell oil 
policy on to the defensive. They had their hands full saving 
their own skin in France itself. 

Back to France then ! At what point did we leave Mr. Zaharoff 
there with his triumphs ? The French were certainly once more 
on guard, but not so completely on guard as to be able to 
prevent the delicate plant of the Algerian oil hopes from 
fading away in his clutching old hands. And so there was a 
sort of crisis of confidence in a certain Grand Cross of the 
Legion of Honour ; at the time of the San Remo Agreement, 
when Vickers rifles were found with the Druses and the Emir 
Feisal, there was not the same trust in the Frenchness of the 
gentleman with the imperial as there had been a year before — 
and the Americans, too, who had been victoriously pressed 
back, were now returning to the charge. In the spring of 1920 
an expedition led by two gentlemen from Standard Oil — 
Alfred Cotton Bedford and Walter Clark Teagle were the 
names of the heroes from across the seas — began to exercise 
pressure in the city on the Seine. The conquest of the French 
home market and Mosul — their secret plans did not differ 



224 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

by one iota from those of Mr. Basil ZaharofF. Only this cam- 
paign, directed against England with the plunder of France 
as aim, was waged by the Americans more directly and less 
in the oriental manner. The French oil interests therewith 
ceased to be the subject of what might be called an intimate 
Anglo-French dispute ; they became objects, became one of the 
objects of the great rivalry between the two Anglo-Saxon 
World Powers. That is to say the Anglo-French war became 
from that time a part of the greater Anglo-American war. 
Or to put it mathematically, as France was to Turkey so the 
United States was to France — F : T = A : F. 

The first American objective in this new stage of the war 
was the expulsion of Mr. Zaharoff and Shell from the French 
home market. If Mr. ZaharofF had in his hands for furthering 
Shell's business, the Banque de l'Union parisienne, Standard 
Oil now took possession of the second big bank, the compe- 
titor, the Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas. Here, when it was 
engaged in the conquest of the Banque Paris Pays-Bas, it 
had to meet the first counter-attack of its Levantine opponent. 
A great French bank like the Paris Pays-Bas had necessarily 
old connections with the heavy industry — that is, with these 
gentlemen in Le Creusot and on the Comitd des Forges, 
who, in their turn, were associates of Mr. ZaharofF in the rival 
bank. Thus Sir Basil had a little word to say, at least indirectly, 
regarding the alliance of Standard Oil and the Banque Paris 
Pays-Bas. Stop it ? No, that is impossible. But if he does not, it 
is the end. And so Herr Hoffmann of the Berlin School of 
Politics has to say that the Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas 
was only allowed to turn to the American side on condition 
that it "handed over to English finance" its influence on the 
Russo-Asiatic Bank. This remark of Herr Hoffmann ought to 
be closely studied by the future historian of crime. The Russo- 
Asiatic Bank was the bank that held the concession for the 
Chinese Eastern Railway, that fine running from the trans- 
continental Siberian railway that gives access to the Pacific, 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE 22 J 

and for whose possession a fierce struggle had been raging 
for years and goes on up to this day. In other words, Zaharoff 
has had to yield ground before the attack of Standard Oil in 
the banking world of Paris, but, as compensation, he has got 
an influence in the Eastern battleground which in its extent 
and results cannot yet be surveyed. 

To yield ground ! And it was not ended, the yielding 
process. Now that France had resolved to use Beelzebub 
to drive out Satan and had summoned the Standard Oil to 
its aid, our hero with the imperial found himself engaged in 
rearguard actions along the whole line of his deployment 
in France. In that bargaining over the Chinese Eastern Railway, 
Standard Oil seems to have retained something for itself. On 
the board of directors of the Banque de la Seine, that is to say 
in the very headquarters itself of Mr. Zaharoff, there suddenly 
appeared a Mr. Edward Tuck, representing an important 
minority holding. The address of this Mr. Tuck is the same 
as that of Standard francaise ! Standard Oil is advancing. 
Entry into the enemy headquarters ; the valiant Americans 
may well have been proud of their success. That the victorious 
Mr. Tuck in this purchase of shares had been rather let down 
by the old Levantine was first apparent a little later. We shall 
speak of it later. It was a Pyrrhic victory, a Danaan gift, or 
any other historical or mythological name one likes to give it. 
The shares were to all intents and purposes worthless. 

But this was just a Levantine jest, a local success for the 
rearguard. The retreat remained a retreat. It was a war to the 
knife which even in the account given by the moderate Herr 
Hoffmann was "waged in the most intimate way of intrigue 
in the political salons and banks." Details might be given in 
a text-book, but not in the kind of book which we were trying 
to write for budding armament kings ; only in a text-book of 
criminology. As example, take this one typical bit of sharp 
practice : 

Since 1906 there had been in existence an insignificant 



226 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

shipping company called the Society navale de l'Ouest. One 
day Mr. Zaharoff got control of it and made it a noble company 
by increasing its capital from three to forty million francs. 
What was a shipping company to do with such a lot more 
money ? It bought ships I Where ? From the Vickers company 
of course. Only later did the true story of the purchase of the 
ships come out in connection with the failure of the company 
in 1923. We can read this in the Tribune de Paris : 

The price of construction which Mr. Basil Zaharoff charged 
to the Societe navale de l'Ouest resulted in heavy burdens 
being imposed upon it, in preventing it from carrying on 
business, and in the failure sooner or later of the company and 
its disappearance into the abyss which swallowed also the 
millions of the luckless shareholders. When Zaharoff negotiated 
with Vickers for the building of a number of ships for the 
Societe navale de l'Ouest he got a commission of £7 per ton. 
By a delivery of zoo,ooo tons he got away with £1,400,000. 

A small but clever catch, a commercial jest of the great 
man, an example of what the French always ascribe to him — 
"amour de la commission." But we are not yet at the year 
1923 ; we are still at the end of 1920 ; the battle in France 
between Shell and Standard Oil has been drawn, and the 
English oil capital has by no means given up the fight for the 
French home market as hopeless. At least there remains 
that other great and undefeated English oil company which 
can be used to make a flank attack on the victoriously advancing 
Americans — the Anglo-Persian. So, at the beginning of 1921, 
Zaharoff started a new company, though finding himself 
driven to retreat on every point on his front in France — the 
Societe generale des Huiles de Petrole. The founders were 
the Anglo-Persian and that shipping company, the Societd 
navale de l'Ouest, of which we have just read that it was 
tottering, thanks to its costly purchase of ships from Vickers. 
The complaisant Press announced the new company as a 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE 227 

member of a model vertical trust : the shipyards of Vickers 
build ships for the Societe navale de l'Ouest, which bring 
the oil of the Anglo-Persian to France to the new company 
Huiles de Pdtrole, which puts it out on the home market. 
That is a constructive scheme, as was evident also to the 
French shareholders. After six months Mr. Basil Zaharoff 
was able to raise the capital of the new company from one 
hundred to two hundred and twenty-seven million francs. 
For that purpose, the Navale de l'Ouest used, so to say, the 
last franc in its coffers in subscribing for all the shares it could 
get in the new Huiles de Pdtrole. After this transaction was 
over, the Navale de l'Ouest was nothing but an empty sausage- 
skin ; Mr. Zaharoff had salved all the meat for the new and 
sound Huiles de Petrole. The skin he left to the earlier share- 
holders — and took no further interest. Until at last, as we 
have read, the sausage skin in 1923 was buried by the 
old shareholders and by the small new French ones who 
were attracted by the expanding activities of the founder. 
Thus a manoeuvre in retreat whereby Mr. Zaharoff, as we hope, 
saved the last franc he had invested — behind the camouflage 
of founding a firm and raising its capital, which must have 
awakened in the minds of those who did not know the inside 
story the impression that Mr. Zaharoff was not withdrawing 
from the French battlefield, but was continuing steadily his 
advance. 

Actually he had lost the battle. And now the papers told 
the tale. Mr. Zaharoff had closed the mouth of his chief assailant 
in Paris, the Petit Parisien, by handing over to it his old Exce/sior. 
On January 1, 192 1 the Petit Parisien turned anglophil. Where- 
upon the Standard Oil by means of the Banque Paris Pays-Bas 
got control of the hitherto anglophil Matin which, on that 
same January 1, 1921, began to fulminate against Mr. Zaharoff 
and the English. So at the twelfth hour General Zaharoff 
had to strengthen his rearguard so as at least to cover his 
retreating columns from the murderous attacks of francs- 



228 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

tireurs. How did he do it ? We may read how in Menevee, 
who writes : 



For this purpose Zaharoff made use of those personalities 
in French politics whose policies had chimed in well with the 
aims of Britain, of M. Georges Clemenceau, and his various 
satellites from M. Andre Tardieu to M. Nicolas Pietri. So a 
new daily appeared, the Echo National, whose founder was 
M. Georges Clemenceau and whose political director was 
M. Andre Tardieu. 

So the hostile armies had taken to shooting at each other 
with newspapers. As conscientious historians let us see 
how this new paper wrote. Here is a typical passage from a 
leading article : 

It certainly needed a Briand or a Franklin-Bouillon to involve 
us in a conflict with England over these Angora Turks in a 
way that they would not have risked doing when it was a 
question of securing the German debt to France. 

That is enough. We are on the right track. The Echo National 
existed for a year, then it disappeared. It had fulfilled its 
mission and covered the retreat. The retreating troops were 
now within their own frontiers again. 

So there remained, therefore, only the other front, the 
Eastern one, which was of paramount importance to the 
great war aim, the conquest of Mosul. As long as Zaharoff 
was not defeated in the East he was not yet defeated. If he 
succeeded in torpedoing France's Eastern policy by finally 
bringing France's latest protege, Angora, to its knees, then the 
expulsion of the ZaharofF-Deterding oil-armies from France 
itself was only an episode, an intermezzo. If we reckon rightly, 
then the Greeks who, since the peace of Sevres, had been 
sitting in Smyrna, would soon be impelled by sheer irresistible 
force of patriotism to advance eastward once again. An 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE 229 

American, Scott Nearing, says in his book Oil and the Germs 
of War : 

The Anatolian war between the Angora Turks and the 
Greeks, which was at the same time a war between French and 
English oil policies, was carried on with special regard to the 
Mesopotamian-Asia Minor oil question, and actually at the 
bidding of the great oil interests. Greece fought under orders 
from Shell, which sheltered behind the British Government, 
and Turkey on orders from the Standard Oil group, whose part 
as a world power was supported not by the United States but 
by France. 

That is just what we have gathered in other ways and from 
other sources, but the circumstances and motives of this war 
are so extraordinary that one cannot have too many sworn 
helpers to back one. 

Thus here the private history of Mr. Zaharoff becomes 
really world history. Greece — that means Venizelos ? No, this 
time Venizelos has nothing to do with it ; he is as innocent 
as a new-born babe. The ways of the politician are wonderful. 
After the victorious advance of June and July 1920, after the 
conclusion of the Peace of Sevres, after the conquest of a 
Smyrna with an extensive hinterland, he had returned home to 
Greece in triumph ; he had even had the luck to realize the 
dearest wish of every statesman, to have that superb chance 
of popularity which comes from escaping an attempt on one's 
life — he escaped an assassin at Lyons. But fate gave into the 
hands of his enemies, the Greek dynasty, another chance for 
popularity, and the people's statesman as a result was over- 
thrown. Alexander, King of Greece, son of the expelled 
Constantine, was bitten by an angry ape in the park of his castle 
at Tatoi. Blood-poisoning ; rumours in Athens that the ape 
had been infected with germs and incited to attack the king. 
Then the young monarch, well deserving to be mourned, died, 
and the monarchist party came to the top. The first result : 

H* 



230 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

Venizelos, who was too secure of himself and careless, held 
new elections, was completely beaten and left the country. 
The second result : the banished King Constantine was recalled 
by a plebiscite and entered Athens. The third result : Mr. Basil 
Zaharoff, because in the early summer of 192 1 he felt the need 
of a little more Greek patriotism, no longer adhered to the 
tried friend and statesman, but went over to the monarch 
whom he had helped to overthrow during the war. 

Not that that presented any difficulties to him. The brother- 
in-law of Wilhelm 11 had also annexationist ambitions. He 
too had a high opinion of Vickers guns and had a certain 
weakness for gold. 

Sir Basil Zaharoff took four million pounds from his own 
pocket for the equipment of the Greek troops for this Asia 
Minor campaign 

declares Aubrey Herbert, already known to us for his persist- 
ence on the occasion of a later attack in the House of Com- 
mons. Other estimates of Zaharoff's private expenditure go 
far above Herbert's — to thirty million pounds. But that 
latter figure given by the Communists is undoubtedly exagger- 
ated. But back to the new and the old King Constantine ! 
He took the weapons and the money of his supporter — there 
are Venizelists who allege that Mr. Basil Zaharoff had already 
financed the return of the king and the public opinion that 
made it possible. It is certain, anyway, that the king at once 
unsheathed the sword and went off to General Headquarters 
in Smyrna. The Greek Army was three hundred thousand 
strong ; it was equipped with Zaharoff's best motorized 
artillery, with the most up-to-date flame-throwers, with 
Maxim guns, with bombing planes and Vickers tanks ; the 
great offensive of the gentleman with the imperial began — 
amid the angry protests of the French, but good wishes from 
Mr. Lloyd George — on July 10, 1921. 

An offensive — against whom ? Here was where in the 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE 23 I 

reckoning of our Levantine and his royal man of straw, 
and in the reckoning of Mr. Lloyd George, as well, there was 
a dangerous error. The Turks of the summer of 1921 were 
no longer the Turks of the summer of 1920. The peace of 
Sevres, as happened elsewhere with dictated peaces, had greatly 
strengthened the Nationalist spirit. The civil war between the 
adherents of the Sultan and the Nationalists had ended with the 
adherence to the Nationalists of the Sultan's party ; the "enemy 
with'ji the gate," which is indispensable to a revolutionary 
movement — for the Turks it was the Armenians — was once 
again massacred ; the French and the Bolsheviks helped with 
money and munitions ; in short, Mustapha Kemal could look at 
the offensive of Mr. Zaharoff with much more equanimity than 
he could have done twelve months before. Still, with these 
Greeks who, just as little as the English, knew of that anony- 
mous pacifist pamphlet which said that "the call to arms 
came not from king or country but from the armaments 
maker, Basil Zaharoff," with these Greeks who went into 
battle for the sake of the dream of a new Byzantine empire, 
with this new anabasis of the three hundred thousand, it 
was not easy, even for an awakened and united Turkey, to 
reckon. On July 10th the Greek offensive began ; on the 19th 
they took Eski-shehr ; on the 25 th they threw the Turks 
back across the River Sakkaria. On August 5 th Mustapha 
Kemal assumed supreme command of the army. The decisive 
battle began on the 14th — the battle of the Sakkaria, a battle 
between oil trusts, a tragedy in memory of a certain Mr. 
Zaharoff, which was the most savage and bloody battle in the 
long history of the Greco-Turkish feud. It lasted two and 
twenty days. The Greeks went back step by step and devas- 
tated the land as they went. The Turks exhausted almost to 
death following them at a day or two's distance. At Eski-shehr, 
from which the last Greek advance had begun, both sides 
dug themselves in. The Turks celebrate the Sakkaria as a 
great victory. But a Mohammedan authority of ours, E., 



232 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

the bearer of a famous Turkish name and a trustworthy witness 
on what then happened in the Near East told me that the battle 
of the Sakkaria had been won by a misunderstanding or by 
an accident. Mustapha Kemal had ordered the retreat to begin 
at seven o'clock on the two and twentieth day. But King 
Constantine had ordered it for four o'clock 1 In any case the 
advance of the Greek army had been smashed. The troops 
which now lay in the trenches of Eski-shehr were no longer 
capable of righting. Unless a miracle happened Zaharoff, 
with his friend Lloyd George and his royal man of straw, 
Constantine, had lost the game, a game in which the stakes 
were perilously high. 

No miracle happened, but what did come, and in ever- 
increasing strength, was the echo of what had happened. On 
August 1 6th, that is while the battle of the Sakkaria was still 
in progress, it was already audible — even in England. Here is 
a passage from a speech by Mr. Guinness in the House of 
Commons : 

If the Silesian danger is in a fair way of being settled, the 
next most important problem outstanding is that of the Near 
East, and on that score I must say that the statement of the 
Prime Minister seemed to me this afternoon to be most 
unsatisfactory. His attitude was that of the old Turks after the 
revolution towards the dogs of Constantinople. These unfortu- 
nate animals were shipped off to an island — and left there 
to destroy each other. That practically is the policy which the 
Prime Minister tells us this afternoon he considers most 
suitable for application to Anatolia. It is a most cynical policy 
and I think it is a disastrous policy in the interests of recon- 
struction throughout the world. The only explanation, I am 
afraid, is that our foreign affairs are run not by the Foreign 
Office, but by the Prime Minister personally. I suspect that 
experts in a position to give him advice founded on experience 
and knowledge are very rarely consulted. This is not to say 
that the Prime Minister has no counsellors. I believe that in 
this matter the voice behind the throne, or I should say the 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE 233 

voice behind the presidential chair, is that of Sir Basil Zaharoff. 
He is, no doubt, a very able financier. Outside political circles 
his chief fame is that he does or did control the armament 
industries in four or five countries. But even more than his 
financial power is the fact that, although he is British enough 
to be a Grand Cross of the Bath and a Grand Cross of the 
British Empire, he remains primarily, I believe, a Greek. If we 
are to be ruled in foreign affairs, not by experts but by a presi- 
dential system, we can at least ask that the voices which he 
hears should be British voices, and the interests those of his own 
country, or at least of the Entente. 

And then it was heard on the other side of the Channel. 
There, too, the echoes grew. This opportunity for once of 
picking a quarrel with Britain and so with the suspected 
Mr. Zaharoff and especially with the much hated M. Georges 
Clemenceau — that opportunity could not fail to be taken. 
Here it was Briand's friend and Clemenceau's foe, Henry 
de Jouvenel, who directed the orchestra in the Matin which, 
as we know, had since a certain first of January become 
Anglophobe and the house organ of Standard Oil. Let us read 
what he says : 

England's Greek Mistake or the Policy of Sir Basil 

Zaharoff 

Sir Basil Zaharoff has been called the mystery man of Europe. 
Mysterious, no doubt, but M.Zaharoff is certainly not unknown 
in France. Before the war he showered his gifts on our seats of 
learning and they publicly expressed their gratitude. Once he 
bought a newspaper which was only half-political ; that was 
taken to be the caprice of a Maecenas. During the war he 
founded a newsagency which was to be at the service of the 
French Press ; that was the cleverest way to influence and bias 
it. The first person to show unease was, I believe, Clemenceau. 
When he came into power, M. Zaharoff was among those 
threatened. Then everything was publicly arranged when a 
few days later he received the Grand Cross of the Legion of 



234 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

Honour. Since then a member of the Clemenceau family has 
become one of M. Zaharoff's business partners. And M. 
Zaharoff is directly or indirectly chief proprietor of the 
newspaper in which the ghost of M. Clemenceau will shortly 
reappear. 

We would not like to levy at this cosmopolitan banker who 
is a multi-millionaire, who was born in Greece, who has been 
made a knight in England and Grand Cross of the Legion of 
Honour in France, the reproach that here and elsewhere he has 
used his influence in the cause of his native land. No, the 
scandal lies with his satellites. His native land is neither France 
nor England. But woe to the nations who let themselves be 
pressed into the service of international finance. Fortunately 
French policy has recovered its independence even with respect 
to M. Zaharoff. France once again has become the shield of 
Islam. And if England has reckoned up the price which it will 
have to pay from India to Egypt for a policy a la Zaharoff, it 
will no doubt realize that it must again conclude peace with 
Islam. Then it can certainly count on our good services. For 
whatever Lloyd George and particularly Lord Curzon may 
think, there is no difference between Great Britain and our- 
selves as to the objective, but merely a difference of opinion 
regarding the way to get to it. 

With that the signal was given. With that there began the 
society game of revelations. Now it is known in Paris who 
this Mr. Zaharoff is. Nay, rather, at a stroke everyone says 
that he has always known. The Levantine is not only stripped 
to the skin — more clothes, indeed, are stripped from him 
than ever he had on his body — Shell, Anatolia, Mosul, Algeria, 
Monaco, and the Bank of France ; now the scales fall from 
every eye. This Mr. Basil Zaharoff is anti-Christ, and behind 
this anti-Christ stands the old enemy, England. This now is 
the point at which in any sort of affair in France someone 
makes the discovery that somewhere, somehow, in some 
mysterious way the still more mysterious British "Intelligence 
Service" is at work. That mysterious communication from "a 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE 235 

personality of the Lloyd George circle," about the "super- 
spy" Zaharoff we already know. Now people went much further 
back. Thirty years, forty years — what does it matter ? Here 
even our very judicial Zaharoff specialist, Menevee, for once 
loses his level head and writes : 

Zaharoff, it is supposed, came to France in 1889 on the 
occasion of the great exhibition. This date is particularly 
significant if one remembers the part which he played later. 
For 1 8 89-1 890 — that was the time when the descent of 
Cornelius Hertz began. It would be important to know in 
full sufficiency the function that Zaharoff was then exercising 
in France. Did he then begin to make preparations to take up 
Cornelius Hertz's succession in that powerful organization 
which for centuries has directed England's policy, the organi- 
zation which is called the "Intelligence Service" ? Are there 
not many points of contact between the activities of Messrs. 
Hertz and Zaharoff? 

The comparison is even more extraordinary if one thinks 
a little about the facts. The part played by Hertz in the 
journalistic and political life of Clemenceau is possibly forgotten 
by many, and yet it is not to be underestimated. And Zaharoff 
does precisely what Hertz did. He too has his mysteries with 
Clemenceau. For instance, Cornelius Hertz owned the Justice, 
which was Clemenceau's paper — and Zaharoff owned the 
Echo National, which was Clemenceau's paper. That was 
why Clemenceau recommended Hertz for honours, and on 
the three of the five occasions when Zaharoff received honours 
Clemenceau was again at the head of the Government of France. 

That and no more. We can easily laugh. We can easily say that 
the accusation against the old Tiger who so many times showed 
his flaming French patriotism — and not for the last time in 
the struggle with Lloyd George — is nothing else but absurd. 
We can easily establish that Mr. Lloyd George could scarcely 
have done anything else than draw the logical conclusions 
from the political premises. We could easily plead as grounds 



236 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

for lenience for Mr. Basil Zaharoff in the special circumstances 
for his acts as a war-monger, affection and patriotism, human, 
all too human qualities. But for those who were the victims of 
this battue the affair was deadly serious. 

How did they react ? The man with the imperial held his 
peace. Not a quiver in his face betrayed him when he was 
overrun by newspapermen seeking a new sensation, by 
excited politicians. The looking after the wrecks of his 
positions in France he left to the partners whom he had so 
carefully taken into partnership. Mr. Tuck of the Standard 
Oil, who a short time before had entered with flags flying 
into the Banque de la Seine was, we fear, not too pleased 
with his triumph and with the possession of his new shares. 
At that time the Action franfaise et etrang&re wrote : 

The Collapse of Greece seems to have shattered Zaharoff's 
power. Will he at last pack up and go ? Things are going badly 
with the Banque de la Seine. Its shares have fallen from 500 to 
225. Why doesn't M. Zaharoff stop the rot ? He was able to 
pay four hundred million francs for the Greek Army and he 
hasn't ten million for his bank ? 

Will he at last pack up and go ? The great man hasn't heard 
words like this for fifty years. A memory of youth. But to 
treat a self-made man in that way is a psychological error and 
it is certainly not the way to get him to take his purse out of 
his pocket. A man who is insulted never pays. In November 

1922 the bank, into which as a good bargain the victorious 
Mr. Tuck had bought his way, was in some straits, in June 

1923 was in difficulties over quite a small sum, and by the 
next time an election of directors came round the last of Sir 
Basil's men of straw had cleared out. 

No, not quite so unwept and unsung did the English knight 
now pack up and go as in 1873. He departed from France 
with a gesture which does all honour both to his knighthood 
and to his southern blood. He endowed a seamen's home, a 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE 237 

chair, a university — these were things of the past. Now, when 
he was being overwhelmed in a wave of national indignation, 
and maligned by a crowd of newspapers which a short time 
ago had been glad to receive his favours, he endowed a prize 
for literature. And he called it "the Prix Balzac." This man who 
at his age had become the incarnation of Baron Nucingen, 
attached his name to that of the author of the Comidie humaine. 
If that is not just a jest of fate it is at least a symbol. And at 
this hour of disaster the greatest gesture of supreme irony 
that could be imagined. 

Mr. Lloyd George's temperament is very different. He has 
the ability not merely to negotiate but to orate. In Manchester 
he appeared before his fellow-countrymen and explained to 
them the great peace aims which he had pursued with his — 
he actually did say "his" — Eastern policy. Freedom of trade 
on the Bosphorus. Saving Europe from a new war. Prevention 
of Turkish atrocities in Constantinople and Thrace I Ah, the 
grey-haired man who stands before his electors has been seven- 
teen years in the Government and for six years has ruled a 
world empire. A man like that does not give up a fight so easily. 
A fine actor such as he has been all his life long, he perhaps 
believes even at this hour that he has undertaken a crusade 
against the unbelievers. What do they really know, all those 
who cast stones at him now ? Now Sir Henry Wilson, the 
friend and collaborator of yesterday, writes : 

Mr. Lloyd George has put his money on the wrong horse. 
We shall never get peace in Palestine or Mesopotamia or 
Egypt or India until we make love to the Turks. It may be very 
immoral or it may not ; it is a fact. Can anyone tell me why 
Mr. Lloyd George backed the Greeks ? I don't know and I am 
going to ask him as soon as I get a chance. I know it was not 
by the advice of George Nathaniel Curzon or the British 
Ambassador at Constantinople or Lord Reading. That at least 
has come out. I was at the Quai d'Orsay when the three of them 
including Lloyd George gave Smyrna to the Greeks, and I 



238 2AHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

had to arrange for troops to go there. I had no say in the 
matter. It was an affair of high policy. Venizelos went at once 
with me to my hotel, the Astoria. He was always a good friend 
and I told him plainly that he had ruined his country. He 
pooh-poohed the idea. I said : "If you go to Smyrna you must 
go to Armenia or get out." That wasn't clever. It was just 
common sense. You can't hold a seaboard town with the 
Turks sitting all round you on the hills like wolves licking 
their chaps. So they got Smyrna and had to take the railway 
and at this minute they are losing the railway and in time they 
will have to get out. But why did Lloyd George back them ? 
Was it to please Zaharoff or was it because Venizelos told him 
that Greeks were so prolific that they would people Near East 
Asia in two or three years ? 

Lord Beaverbrook, the newspaper king, demanded that the 
doors of Government offices should at last be shut to Sir 
Basil Zaharoff and his agents. And the Daily Mail said that this 
Levantine must be taught that the English nation was deter- 
mined to be master in its own house. And again the persistent 
Aubrey Herbert asked : 

If Sir Basil was consulted before the Greek landing at 
Smyrna by the Foreign Office or by the Prime Minister. 

No, by Heaven, and once again, no ; he has never been called 
into council. It is the duty of a gentleman sometimes to lie 
in politics, just as much as when there is a woman in the 
case. Zaharoff, Zaharoff, and yet again Zaharoff. Everyone 
now thinks himself cleverer than he. Of the real background, 
of the great strategic conception in which this private Anatolian 
affair of his friend Zaharoff is only a stage in a process, of the 
secret Franco-Anglo-American oil war for world dominion, 
he must not speak. So he holds his peace. "I shall not say 
what might be injurious to my native land," he wrote briefly 
at the head of his memoirs. Perhaps there is a truer greatness 
of character behind these words than can be realized to-day. 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE THRONE 239 

It remains to tell that destiny took its course. In order to 
make the British defeat more pointed, the Quai d'Orsay, 
which had learned something from its enemies, signed the 
Treaty of Angora by which it, as it were, presented Mosul, 
which now obviously could not be obtained by the grande 
nation, to the Turks. Lloyd George took his revenge ; he recog- 
nized the Feisal who had been driven out of Syria by the French 
as the rightful king of Irak. Thus France was once again 
forced to move. It was determined to give a last push to the 
tottering edifice of its foes. In the battle-front there was a 
punctum minoris resistentiae — the Greeks defeated at the battle 
of the Sakkaria. On August 26, 1922, Mustapha Kemal attacked 
them in their old positions and annihilated them. The Greek 
army broke in pieces. The regiments dissolved into rebellious 
mobs. The Turkish cavalry pressed on their heels. Turkish 
villages, Greek villages went up in fire and flame. Old men, 
women, and children were hacked in pieces. No prisoners 
were made. Thus this smoking, bloody, dying ebb and flow of 
flight and pursuit reeled to the coast. "In fourteen days I 
shall be in Smyrna," said Mustapha Kemal when the attack 
began. He took the town on September 9th. It was given to the 
flames. The wreck of an army, decimated and shattered to bits, 
and with it hundreds of thousands of Anatolian Greeks, all 
of them fled neck and crop in utter misery, carrying infection 
with them, over to the mother-land across the sea. In Athens 
there was a great upheaval. Six ministers condemned for high 
treason faced a firing party. The king and commander-in- 
chief, Constantine, was hounded out of his land with insult 
and mockery — for the second time ; by his own people this 
time, without any pressure from outside. Barely three months 
later he died in Palermo. 

That was the reckoning in Athens. In London the reckoning 
was made in calmer fashion. The Conservatives left the 
Government. Thus Lloyd George was overthrown. On 
October 19, 1922, he handed in his resignation. 



240 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

But the man who had contrived all that, who had paid for 
it out of his own pocket, who had let it come to an affair of 
flesh and blood and particularly blood, the three-and-seventy- 
year-old Sir Basil Zaharoff, "the inspirer of British policy," 
the richest man in the world, "the man of mystery," and Grand 
Cross of the highest order in the land of the arch-enemy — 
at this moment he is not to be found. He has disappeared. 



NATIONS AS PAWNS 

Now for the first time we shall let our hero disappear into 
the background and take the chance to get our breath. Into 
what a tangled jungle of lust of power, world policy, and 
vileness have we all unwittingly wandered ! It is more than 
necessary to halt and take the chance to draw breath, and to 
understand what actually has happened. 

That daring double attack on the Great Power, France, 
that strategic plan to defeat her by striking her in the East 
while she was being struck as well, and primarily, on her own 
soil, has failed. Mr. Zaharoff's positions on the Seine have been 
too vividly revealed for him to go on making an effort to stay 
in the country. But this statement requires a little qualification. 
Amid the wreck of his fronts in France, the gentleman from 
the Levant had stoutly maintained one single, strong, and 
carefully prepared position, and assured it ; that is the strong- 
hold in that big bank of Paris which is called the Banque 
de l'Union parisienne. Such a bank pursues its own policy 
independent even of the Quai d'Orsay ; and here Sir Basil 
Zaharoff, despite the fact that his private fortune is down by a 
couple of hundred million francs as a result of his private 
adventure in Anatolia, counts for quite as much as the Vickers 
company counts with the Schneider firm in Le Creusot. 
Should the gentleman who has been crushed bob up again 
after all, and should he still take an interest in business, and 
especially, considering the incalculable obstinacy of old men, 
in the petrol business, then we might witness the Vickers 
company, the makers of guns, the builders of warships, be- 
come involved in the Mosul oil policy. 

Now what is the actual situation in the war for Mosul ? 
Greece is destroyed. Mr. Zaharoff has been expelled from 



242 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

France and for the moment has disappeared. Lloyd George 
has fallen. At the end of the year 1922 the British Empire was 
having a thin time. What was now set a-going from London 
was a bold, complicated, and masterly policy of rectification. 
Its director was Lord Curzon. 

His first action was to blow up the American corner of the 
triangle France — America — Turkey. It is never too difficult 
for the Anglo-Saxon masters of the world to come to an agree- 
ment. In America there were three groups interested in Mosul. 
The first, the legitimists, if we may so describe them, is the 
group round old Admiral Chester who, at the turn of the 
century, had discovered the Mosul oil fields, and since then 
had ever and anon appeared as a claimant to the concession. 
Mr. Chester had the audacity to try to carry on his business in 
opposition to the all-powerful Standard Oil ; since that day 
he could obtain no more capital in his own country. So this 
eternal and unlucky competitor is impotent, but he is still 
quite good enough to be used as a cover. That holds good, 
too, for the second American group. We may remember that 
the pious Abdul Hamid at the moment when British, Germans, 
and Americans began to take an interest in concessions, had 
transferred the vilayet of Mosul from the domain of the 
State to his own private estate. The pious Sultan in the meantime 
was overthrown, and had since died. But, as is usually the case 
with sultans, he possessed simply an amazing number of 
descendants. And then there came into the head of an energetic 
American lawyer named Untermeyer the idea of creating a 
syndicate out of these "heirs of Abdul Hamid," these semi- 
princesses, pianists in bars, and taxicab drivers who were 
strewn over half the globe, and to demand the vilayet of Mosul 
with its oil as their heritage. These people are equally impotent 
and their claims hopeless, but it is not impossible that they can 
be made use of. There remains the third American group, the 
real great power — Standard Oil. It possesses no moral priority 
claim as does Admiral Chester ; it has not to its hand an Eastern 



NATIONS AS PAWNS 243 

ruler whose penchant is women and children like the proteges 
of Mr. Untermeyer. In the manner of a Great Power it makes 
no appeal at all to a legal title, but demands the application of 
the principle of "the open door." Against that there is no 
argument ; one can only pay up. So once again a treaty is 
signed. It is called the Cadman treaty, and by it Britain promises 
one quarter of Mosul oil to the Standard Company. 

By thus sacrificing a quarter of the plunder Lord Curzon 
succeeded in blowing up the American end of the hostile 
triangle. From now on America is found on the side of the 
British. Now there remain only the French and the Turks — 
the position is not so dangerous. And as to settle the utter 
confusion in the Near East a conference is summoned in 
Lausanne, the best course in a case where opinions are very 
divided is to present everybody with a fait accompli. Thus in 
October 1922 British officers led the troops of Feisal into 
Mosul. With that the stage for the Lausanne conference — the 
first of that name — is set ; the play could begin. 

We cannot trace the whole dramatic course of that confer- 
ence. England and America were arrayed against Turkey and 
France. The conference began with a minor distraction. The 
Turks saw themselves faced with a draft treaty which looked 
remarkably like an ultimatum, and with the acceptance of 
which — the Turks got five days in which to decide — Turkey 
admitted the validity of the Bagdad-Mosul oil conces- 
sions granted to the Turkish Petroleum Company, the 
control of which was in English hands. The Turks were 
furious, but they negotiated. And suddenly during the five 
days of the ultimatum who appears ? Who breaks his flag once 
again ? At the critical moment of the conference Mr. Basil 
Zaharoff whom, since the fall of his friend Lloyd George, 
everyone had thought disappeared, ruined, finished, bobs up 
from his shipwreck as fresh as ever. And it is soon apparent 
that the old gentleman is neither bankrupt nor beaten. The 
affair that cost his royal friend Constantine his throne and 



244 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

life, his ally Lloyd George his career, had cost Mr. Basil Zaharoff 
only a miserable couple of hundred million francs. Up he comes, 
slender, alert, and rejuvenated as if he had been away at a health 
resort. They will have yet to reckon with this young man. 

How did he spend the time when he was lying in hiding ? 
We shall not unveil the mystery. At least not yet. At the 
moment let us be content with this ; at the critical moment 
of the Lausanne Conference he bobbed up again all of a 
sudden, and, so to say, flung a bomb into the assembly. Let 
us follow his course, and this is as difficult as negotiating 
floating ice. Let us glance first at the Press : 

Here is the first warning signal in the Matin : 

Sir Basil Zaharoff is expected in London this week. England 
should not believe that the danger is over. That would mean 
that they were underestimating the skill at intrigue of M. 
Venizelos and the obstinacy of Sir Basil Zaharoff. It cannot be 
doubted now but that both of them have kept their influence 
and they will not yield without a desperate fight. 

And then this from the Weekly Dispatch : 

While everybody was searching for Sir Basil Zaharoff the 
Greek multi-millionaire was staying quietly in London. When 
we met him on Monday in Piccadilly, any number of people 
were passing him by and not one recognized him. That shows 
the mystery in which he moves, although in the crisis in the 
Near East and in many others his influence was greater than 
that of most of the statesmen whom everyone knows. This 
mysterious personage who has had such a significant influence 
on international policy for twenty years went past the news- 
paper sellers, who carried bills telling of the latest diplomatic 
stroke in England of his protdge, Venizelos, without batting 
an eyelid. 

And this from the Sunday Express : 

The deepest mystery surrounds Sir Basil Zaharoff 's comings 
and goings between London and Paris. No doubt the sinister 
Greek comes to London "on private business" as one of his 



NATIONS AS PAWNS 24 J 

confidants tells us. None the less his private business is the fate 
of nations, the plans of Governments, and the marching of 
armies. 

Eight days ago M. Venizelos also arrived here "on private 
business." But a few hours later he was in the Foreign Office, 
no doubt on some private business of his own. The whole of 
the London Press has indicated its distrust of this mysterious 
millionaire and his agent Venizelos. The friends of Sir Basil 
Zaharoff will be well advised if they succeeded at the last 
moment in inducing him not to come to London whatever 
the reason of his journey may be. 

Once again this is all a little obscure. What is the game ? We 
shall be better advised to learn of it from our Greco-French 
banker Ch., who must have definite information here. Here is 
a passage from what he said : 

Zaharoff did for our Venizelos, he and Lloyd George ! [Then 
follows what was given earlier in another connection.] And 
later Constantine was beaten and Lloyd George overthrown ; 
it went as far as that. When the catastrophe of Smyrna hap- 
pened Venizelos was in America. He returned at once to 
Europe and flung into the struggle in London all his patriotism 
and all his skill in negotiation, so that Greece might not be 
left in the lurch. He could do nothing to help. Why ? Because 
Zaharoff stabbed him in the back. He didn't care a rap for 
Greece. To him Greece was only a piece on the board. He 
bent all his energies to wreck the Lausanne conference so that 
he might do some fishing in troubled waters. Then Mr. 
Zaharoff went to and fro between London and Paris and there 
was the great burst-up at the conference. The Turks would very 
likely have accepted the British terms, but while the ultimatum 
period was still running, everything suddenly went wrong. 
First of all the British told the Turks they would not only have 
to give up Mosul, but they must hand over the docks and 
arsenals built on the Bosphorus before the war to the Vickers 
company. That was Mr. Zaharoff. Secondly, the French 
declared that the British were sabotaging the occupation of 
the Ruhr, and Mr. Zaharoff was certainly one of the chief 



246 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

actors in the Ruhr affair. The Turks naturally were aware of 
the conflict between France and England, refused the ulti- 
matum, and smashed the conference by withdrawing. Thus 
Zaharoff, by torpedoing the conference, got what he wanted. 
Everyone was at daggers drawn with everyone else, and he 
did fish in troubled waters. 

Stay, stay, this is too much to take in all at once ; it makes one's 
head reel. It is now time to check these allegations. The sudden 
emergence from shipwreck of Basil Zaharoff and the "feverish 
activity " he now showed going between London and Paris, 
seems to be sufficiently documented by the quotations I have 
given from the Press. The allegations of Ch. regarding 
Zaharoff's altered attitude to Venizelos and Greece let us 
leave aside ; perhaps we can clear that up later. But where is 
the point of contact between that "feverish activity" and the 
burst-up at Lausanne ? Did Mr. Basil Zaharoff actually torpedo 
the first Lausanne conference ? At any rate this allegation 
by Ch. enormously simplifies the story. When Lord Curzon 
with his demands drove the Turks from the conference — it 
was not simply a question of Mosul but also of the Straits 
and other questions — the impenetrable and busy Zaharoff 
was clearly there, and was able to secure that his claims for 
the "Docks et Ateliers du Haut-Bosphore" which he had 
sought in vain to make good for the first time a year ago by 
means of the Banque de la Mediteranee on the eve of the Greek 
offensive, should be included among the official demands of 
Britain. And if Ch.'s story that it was that that wrecked the 
conference is a little exaggerated, there is a grain of truth in 
it. One of the messages sent out at the time by the Paris news- 
agency, Sans-Fil, begins thus : 

The question of the renewing of the concession which 
before the war Turkey had given to the Vickers company 
for the erection of Turkish docks and the construction of 
warships was one of the reasons why the first Lausanne 
conference broke down. 



NATIONS AS PAWNS 247 

Thus we have succeeded in landing on one piece of firm 
ground. If its attainment was difficult, what will be much 
more difficult is the investigation of that assertion by our 
authority Ch., which, at the first glance, looks a patent fiction, 
that Zaharoff had directed, or helped to direct, the Ruhr 
struggle. What is the position there ? How are the cards mixed ? 
We may remember the "see-saw" of Lloyd George on which 
the Ruhr and Mosul were set off one against the other. With 
that th^re chimes in what is asserted, and above all by German 
writers, that the French gave their consent to pressure being 
brought to bear on the Turks at the first Lausanne confer- 
ence, only on condition that they got a free hand in the Ruhr. 
But Lord Curzon was not Lloyd George with his policy of 
live and let live. Lord Curzon went further. If he succeeded 
in involving all France's strength and attention in the Ruhr 
then he had a completely free hand in the East. Thus he wel- 
comed the French action in the Ruhr and was interested in 
seeing that they should be as much involved as possible there. 
But he had an equally strong interest in seeing that France's 
strength stayed involved ; that is, that the French occupation 
of the Ruhr did not attain its end. The logical course, then, was 
to support not only the French but the Germans. These are 
the political premises for the explanation of the events of the 
first months of 1923. The German resistance was supported 
by skilful support of the mark then reeling into inflation. 
Whose task was that ? Let us take note. It was the American 
banking house of Kuhn-Loeb, and then the Standard Oil 
Company, which as we have seen had made peace with the 
English, and as a third in the partnership, "British financial 
circles," as our sources a little mysteriously call them. And 
whom do we find on the other side, financing the occupation 
and, according to these sources, especially the Herr Hoffmann 
whom we have already quoted, inciting the French to that 
adventure ? First, John Pierpont Morgan, who is the tradi- 
tional and deadly enemy of Standard Oil, and everywhere 



248 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

on earth appears on the other side when and wherever 
Standard Oil bobs up. And, secondly, the Banque de l'Union 
parisienne. And thus we have come back to our old friend 
ZaharofF again. Union parisienne — that is his last concealed 
position in France. If we were arguing rightly, it was inevitable 
that we should meet him again. And now let us see what 
our sworn helper Ch. can tell us : 

The connections of the American Morgan group reached to 
the Banque de l'Union parisienne. In the winter of 1922-23 
this bank provided the financial preparation for the occupation 
of the Ruhr. Meantime Standard Oil, which was in touch with 
French officialdom through the Banque de Paris et des Pay-Bas, 
worked in the direction of appeasement. 

It may appear contradictory that the Banque de l'Union 
parisienne, an oil bank under British guidance, should be 
financing the French invasion of the Ruhr, although certain 
sections in the financial circles in London, because of Eastern 
and oil-political considerations, according to all the evidence, 
took action to support on the world market the German effort 
to maintain the mark. Thus, through this double relationship 
of a French financing of the military action and the German 
financing of passive resistance, both parties were caught in the 
toils so that France with the Ruhr war was ever more deeply 
tied up in Germany. 

But now when an understanding had been reached in the 
Near Eastern conflicts between the British and American oil 
interests by the secret agreement on Mesopotamia [the Cadman 
treaty], the Ruhr issue had to be liquidated. Therefore London 
finance strove for a compromise between the Morgan group 
and the banking section of the Standard oligarchy. Sir Basil 
Zaharoff, the tried agent of London finance in the Banque de 
l'Union parisienne, then went off to the United States in order 
to get "a conclusion of peace" between the two American 
rivals in understanding with English finance. 

What, then, happened according to this account ? Lord Curzon 
had got the Americans on his side. As a result he was able 



NATIONS AS PAWNS 249 

to break up the Franco-Turkish alliance and isolate the Turks, 
while he kept the French involved in the Ruhr — and Basil 
Zaharoff had forced himself into the game and had a hand in 
it on both sides, the French and also the German. Why ? 
There were plenty of reasons. If Mr. Zaharoff supported the 
Mosul policy of Lord Curzon, he was furthering his own oil 
interests. And if the Banque de l'Union and Schneider-Creusot 
helped the occupation of the Ruhr, Mr. Zaharoff was a partner 
to the business. And if the Germans offered resistance — aye, 
what about this alleged influence on Germany ? Let us say 
just a word on that ; there is something we must explain. 

The preference of the Levantine for any sort of "confusion" 
is no novelty to us. We have only to remember how he paid 
for getting that railway in Eastern Asia. And if on general 
principles there is always something to be made out of con- 
fusion, what could not be made out of the confusion when a 
nation has been laid desperately low and so is striving towards 
a new national awakening, a Great Power has been deprived 
of all its armaments and its armament factories levelled to 
the ground ? What a market there to conquer, what a super- 
dimensional business to be got, if it is possible so to stir up 
national feeling that a complete and new rearmament would 
be demanded — you can realize all that that meant from the 
figures of arms deliveries made by the German State under 
the Versailles Treaty : 



Aeroplanes 


14,014 


Aeroplane motors 


27.757 


Armoured monitors 


4 


Battleships and armoured cruisers 


26 


Small cruisers 


19 


Training and special vessels 


21 


Torpedo-boats 


83 


Submarines 


315 


Powder — tons 


37,000 


Rifles 


6,000,000 



2J0 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

Machine-guns 

Mortars 

Shrapnel ready for use 

Artillery munitions not ready for use — tons 

Shells 

Cartridges 



107,000 

83,000 

38,750,000 

332,000 

16,500,000 

473,000,000 



The dream of an armaments king — to be present when re- 
armament on such a scale was to take place. The days are 
over when Carl von Ossietzky was beaten half dead and given 
an opportunity to acquire his last illness in German prisons 
for mentioning German rearmament. Ossietzky lives no 
longer, and the present rulers of Germany have taken to 
boasting of what was once solemnly denied. So the Germans 
did rearm in those years. As for Zaharoff, we can merely say 
that the psychological conditions for his intervention were 
certainly present. How far he took these conditions into con- 
sideration is debatable. We should not presume to say, and will 
bring forward merely two witnesses. That special number of 
the Crapouillot — "Les Marchands de Canons"— which we have 
quoted before and which, besides, is not anti-German, says : 

The Hitler movement was financed not only by Hugenberg, 
who dealt out the subsidies of the heavy industry, but also 
by Pintsch, a Berlin firm controlled by Vickers, who from the 
very first had an agent at Hitler's headquarters. 

If that is right, then we should have a direct link with 
Mr. Zaharoff, though an indirect one via the Vickers' subsidiary, 
Pintsch. Then — which reveals the line of attack of Zaha- 
roff-Schneider-Banque de l'Union parisienne-Skoda (the last- 
named company belonged, or 56 per cent, of it at least, to the 
interests behind it which we have just named) — here is a 
quotation from an article by KaisarofF in the Krasnqya Ga^eta : 

Under the direction of German engineers Skoda in Pilsen 
are building tanks of the latest type, and it is a curious 
circumstance that this new type of tank which, it is alleged, 



NATIONS AS PAWNS 25 I 

is being constructed for Sweden, is eminently more suited to 
German land conditions. 

But it is very possible that these sources are coloured by 
political bias. The last statement certainly makes interesting 
reading to-day, in the light of the German threat to Czecho- 
slovakia. But what we have so far brought forward as evi- 
dence for the activity in the rearming of Germany of Mr. 
Zaharoff and his industries, whose role was doubted some 
while ago and is now notorious, are merely indications and 
do not amount to proof. But what can one say about the next 
document ? We may remember that Agence Radio which was 
founded by Zaharoff in the war years to work on public 
opinion in Greece, and which, as we have shown in connection 
with the action against Krupp, had to some extent become 
estranged from its founder who had withdrawn his subsidy. In 
1923 — that is, at the time of the Ruhr war — this estrangement 
process seems to have reached completion, for here we make 
this rather piquant discovery among the messages sent out 
by this agency which Zaharoff founded : 

To whom were the munitions on board the Varsovie consigned 
by the Vickers company ? 

London, November 29th. — Mr. Paget Walford of the big 
shipowning company of Leopold Walford, the owners of the 
British steamer Varsovie, on board which it has been ascer- 
tained were munitions consigned to a German port, to-day 
stated that the munitions had been consigned by the Vickers 
company and with the sanction of the British authorities ; he 
himself had not been told the final destination of the cargo 
and had thought that it was Russia. The consignees, the Vickers 
company, refused to give any information. 

To which we can add that Mr. Walford, the owner of the 
vessel, is known as the son-in-law of the Duchess of Villa- 
franca. 

Lord Curzon's idea of tying France up in the Ruhr in order 
to have a free hand himself in the East was taken up by 



252 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

Mr. Zaharoff and his colleagues, true to those methods of 
his, with such complete success that during the first months 
of 1923 Turkey was isolated and helpless, faced with the three 
united Anglo-Saxon Great Powers, the United States, Zaharoff, 
and Britain. 

All that remained now was to destroy Turkey — now 
fully at their mercy — or to bring her into the fairway of British 
policy. Now the Levantine threw himself with all his might 
on this new stage, an old one for him, and one where still 
was a reckoning to be paid. How did he go to work ? Read 
this telegram from London in the Matin : 

The Turkish Press has just announced that "the mystery man 
of Europe" is arming for a new war. According to it the 
Greeks are making all preparations to resume hostilities in 
Eastern Thrace. The Tewid Efkiar announces that Sir Basil has 
bought 1 j 0,000 rifles, which have been shipped to Salonica and 
will shortly be sent up to the front. The same paper learns 
from Athens that Zaharoff has got money from members of the 
Greek colony in Paris. The great banker has let M. Venizelos 
know that he is ready to support financially a revolutionary 
Government in Athens. 

That is enough. Our hero arms the Greeks for more trouble 
in Thrace ; once again, although the blood-bath of Smyrna 
took place only a few months ago, they must march against 
the Turks. Good, they may well serve to scare the now isolated 
Kemal and make him more amenable to the British Mosul 
policy. But the last line of the message — what does that mean ? 
A revolutionary Government ? Does Mr. Zaharoff want to have 
a revolutionary movement in Greece ? We should like to hear 
more about that before we give it credence — from the other 
side, as a precaution, from Belgrade : 

The centre of the republican movement is Salonica. At the 
head of the movement are Venizelos and the former com- 
mander of the Greek Army in Thrace, General Pangalos, and 



NATIONS AS PAWNS 253 

also Admiral Hadjikiriakis. In Salonica and Western Thrace 
it is feared that there may be an armed clash between the 
republican and the royalist regiments. The republican move- 
ment is financed by the Greek bankers, Zaharoff and Benakis. 

At least the message does not lack precision. Once again 
Mr. Zaharoff is financing a Greek revolution. To make our 
bewilderment about these alleged revolutionary intentions 
of Mr. Zaharoff in Greece intelligible we must deal a little 
more fully with that mysterious disappearance of the gentleman 
with the imperial at the end of 1922, when, as we may remem- 
ber, Lloyd George fell and Greece was in distress. Where did 
he hide himself, where was he ? In those days Mr. Zaharoff 
was staying, feted and surrounded by the throng, as a guest 
at the Court of Bucarest. There is here a statement by Baroness 
P. (who told us about Zaharoff's state of mind in the days 
when the war broke out) which is as follows : When he heard 
the news of the destruction of the Greek Army and the massacre 
of untold numbers of bis fellow-countrymen in Anatolia, 
Zaharoff went through one of the gravest crises of his life. 
He tore his hair, he cried aloud his grief to heaven, physically 
he was on the point of collapse. But, to name only one, there 
is the contrary witness of the Greek diplomatist G., who was 
then stationed in Bucarest and could see at close quarters how 
untroubled, to all outward appearance at least, Mr. Zaharoff 
lived through these tragic days. Vickers' agent was not staying 
in any case in Bucarest for pleasure. The Rumanian currency 
had crashed even worse than any of the other unstable Balkan 
currencies. And if, in spite of his adventure in Asia Minor, 
the aged and powerful visitor was feted at the Bucarest Court 
it was because he came with a full pocket-book. He granted a 
loan to the State ; for him it was a matter only of three million 
pounds sterling, for the Roumanians one of two thousand 
million lei, and that is an atronomical figure. At the same 
time Vickers obtained a considerable share in the Reschitza, 
the biggest undertaking of the Roumanian heavy industry. 



254 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

It is also certain that, besides external loans and participation 
in the heavy industry, other brews were concocted. The Queen 
of Roumania — but we like Lewinsohn's way of telling stories 
of this sort : 

Zaharoff was spoiled at the Court. The queen who knew so 
well how to make the best display of her majestic beauty was 
particularly attentive to the guest. She moved like a queen in 
her private apartments, and when she played her favourite 
trick, and in so gracious a manner strewed a mysterious powder 
on the fireplace from which a fantastic firework was conjured 
up, the seventy-year-old Sir Basil could not free himself from 
the charm of this atmosphere. The eyes of the queen shone like 
stars. Bucarest had a charming Court and the interest on the 
loan seemed adequate. 

In short, what was going on was an attempt to seduce Mr. 
Zaharoff into intervening on behalf of the Greek royal family. 
Dynasties are all keen on propping up their thrones. To com- 
pass the fall of tyrants is an infectious game for the peoples. 
What I do for you I do for myself. And the eldest daughter of 
the Roumanian king and queen was, since Constantine had 
gone, Queen of Greece. In the present state of feeling in Athens 
no one knew whether to-morrow the new King George 
would have to follow the track of his luckless father across the 
frontier. In such a case only the powers that were could help 
in Greece, and there the powers that were were — Zaharoff. 

What can we think ? Did the old man, thronged with the 
most pressing world-political cares, take upon himself this 
little private matter which almost savours of an old world 
of gallantry, and promised to do something for the legitimist 
cause in Greece pour les beaux jeux d'une reine ? Or was he once 
again the old fox and began his fresh intervention in the 
affairs of Greece for reasons which are different but which 
we cannot at present fathom, because intervention was part 
of the new idea ? We are the less able to decide since barely 
a month later it was very obvious that the very opposite 



NATIONS AS PAWNS 2J5 

happened in Greece of what Mr. Zaharoff had promised in 
Bucarest. So will he now really finance a Venizelos putsch 
in Athens ? Precisely that putsch which Queen Marie of Rou- 
mania dreaded so much, and against which she asked and 
thought she had obtained Zaharoff's help ? Who will explain 
all this ? For the last time let us quote from our conversations 
with the banker Ch. : 

i. You said before that it was clear that Zaharoff simply made 
game of Venizelos and the cause of Greece. 

he. Of course. Zaharoff let himself be caught by Marie of 
Roumania. At first Veni2elos went on believing him an 
honourable gentleman and thought that he would help 
them to drive out the dynasty, Constantine's brood, from 
Athens. But one day our friend Zaharoffinvited Venizelos 
to Monte Carlo. That was in the early summer of 1923. 
And there suddenly Zaharoff asked him to leave the 
freedom movement in the lurch and submit to King 
George. 
1. And Venizelos ? 

he. Gave him the right answer. You beast, he said to him, you 
— (here followed a series of injurious epithets from 
Homer). 
1. Did Venizelos relate all this ? 

he. That's of no consequence. Anyway, he tore up all the 
bonds that were between them. They never met again. 
But Zaharoff really wasn't bothering at all about Queen 
Marie and the fate of the Greek royal house. He was 
bothering about this only, that Greece should remain rent 
by faction so that it would continue to be of no account 
in international politics. 
1. Why? 

he. Greece was becoming a nuisance. He was looking for a 
chance to get rid of Greece. Smyrna and the Sakkaria and 
all that, and once again he let her down. 
1. And why so ? 

he. Who can tell with a man like him. Perhaps because he 
wanted to get an agreement with the Turks. 



256 zaharoff: the armaments king 

i. And why that ? 
he. Again no one knows. Because of oil very likely. 

Here the conversation with the aged and easily roused banker 
Ch. ends. Let it be admitted that his account of the conflict 
and break between Venizelos and Zaharoff at that meeting 
in Monte Carlo does not only pretty well agree with the 
account given by the ex-Premier D. — he, too, of course, was a 
Venizelist — but also in a very notable way with the account given 
by Lewinsohn, obviously inspired from Greek monarchist 
circles via Skuludis. In any case we must from now on 
consider Messrs. Zaharoff and Venizelos as enemies. Zaharoff 
had provoked the rupture in order to abandon Greece with 
some show of decency, and be able then to try to reach an 
understanding with the Turks in the matter of Mosul oil. 
That is as clear as anything can be in politics. Zaharoff had not 
acted to please M. Venizelos nor to please Queen Marie. For 
him the Greek adventure was liquidated. 

Let us return now to the Press and read a telegram from 
London : 

Mysterious Lunch in London, Sir Basil Zaharoff 
among the Guests 

On Friday, in one of the most exclusive hotels in the capital, 
there was a mysterious luncheon party, which has not failed 
to cause some excitement in oil industrial circles. 

Although the staff of the hotel did their utmost to keep 
out journalists and Press photographers, it was learned that 
this lunch, over which one of the directors of Anglo-Persian 
Oil, Sir Charles Greenway, presided, was held, that ten City 
magnates were present, and that the guest of honour was none 
other than Sir Basil Zaharoff. 

For various reasons Venizelos could not be present at this 
lunch. In the first place, the presence of the Greek Premier 
would have given the lunch a political character — which no 
doubt it did not possess. Besides, at the moment Venizelos, 



NATIONS AS PAWNS 2J7 

who cannot be in two places at once, is in Monte Carlo, where 
he is watching the interests of his master. 

Another of the guests was quite a young man, the only son 
of the Armenian multi-millionaire Gulbenkian, the "ZaharofFof 
the Royal Dutch Shell Corporation." 

Now here we get into the right path. That M. Venizelos for 
a variety of reasons — not necessarily for those given above 
— was unfortunately unable to be present need not surprise 
us. And now let us run over the list of guests and we know 
where we are. The Greek problem is out of the way. The course 
is set — full steam ahead to Mosul ; a blind man could see 
that. Thanks to a masterly strategy the whole affair has become 
marvellously simplified. The wind is favourable and everyone 
is just in the right mood. The nets are let down ; the catch is 
as good as on board. 

But here, on the eve of triumph, in this plundering raid 
which is perhaps the boldest and biggest in modern economic 
history, we are confronted with the last riddle of Basil Zaharoff's 
meteoric career. On the day on which this mysterious and 
most promising lunch was held in London this telegram 
appeared in the Matin : 

Sir Basil Zaharoff Suddenly Returns to Paris 

The Greek multi-millionaire, Basil Zaharoff, whose presence 
in London has been so eagerly canvassed, this morning sud- 
denly returned to Paris as mysteriously as he went to London 
some days ago. 

And suddenly we are at the end. Nothing more appears in 
the Press — nothing. Everything goes to show that suddenly 
Zaharoff let the reins fall from his hands. We are writing 
of May 15, 1923. Note the date, for it will be mentioned again 
in a very different connection. We may reveal the truth now ; 
at this point the old man's feet leave abruptly the main streets 
of great cities and turn into a quiet private road ; at the con- 



2} 8 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

ference of Lausanne, the second and last, everything went 
according to the political ideas of Mr. Bonar Law and according 
to the commercial-strategic ideas of Mr. Zaharoff and his 
friends, but there is no trace at all of any personal intervention 
of his at the conference. In this the most furious of all the races 
in economic history the old man's horse passed the post first, 
but he was not there to lead it in. He was not present ; once 
again he was somewhere else. 

We can summarize it all thus. The swansong of this Alex- 
ander expedition of a gentleman from Tatavla is as heroic, 
as cunning, as brutal as befits the occasion and the person, 
the adventure and the adventurer. With the beginning of the 
new conference of Lausanne the Reichsmark which, for very 
good reason, had been so well supported in the previous 
months began again to fall. The support of the mark and so 
of the German resistance in the Ruhr had fulfilled its purpose. 
Now that the ship had as good as come to port and the Turks 
isolated and as good as tamed, now that Mr. Zaharoff from 
caprice, or God knows why, had withdrawn into private life, 
the continuance of the Franco-German adventure had lost 
its point. It was agreed to liquidate it and to let the grande 
nation have something of a victory in the Ruhr. So disinterest 
was decreed in the mark ; already it was gliding slowly but 
surely to the abyss — surely, but only slowly, for during the 
conference the French had still to be held in check. The Turks 
alleged that in Mosul, apart from those minorities who in 
spite of all deportations and massacres had somehow in some 
mysterious manner contrived to go on existing, there lived 
281,000 Kurds, 146,000 Turks, and 43,000 Arabs ; and as the 
Kurds were of Turanian stock and therefore just as good as 
Turks, the percentage of the population as far as race went 
was 85 per cent, in favour of the Turks. But the British had 
ascertained that in Mosul there were 454,000 Kurds, 185,000 
Arabs, and only 65,000 Turks. And, according to English 
scholars, the Kurds were not of Turanian but of Iranian stock. 



NATIONS AS PAWNS 259 

So that the percentage of Turks in the Mosul area was not 
85 but 8 per cent. Britain and Turkey were conjured to get 
together and settle in camera caritatis these little differences 
of opinion. With that solution the conference ended. It is 
dated July 24, 1923. The Reichsmark, now a matter of no 
political interest at all, and completely abandoned, a few days 
later went over into the abyss and down to a bottomless pit. 

There remains only to report that Kemal Pasha committed 
the uLual fault of a national dictator and quarrelled with his 
clergy. In March 1924 he abolished the caliphate. Thereby 
a conflict with Turkey, now in this way, too, isolated, held 
no danger for England in the Pan-Islamite sense. It was pos- 
sible now to risk letting the projected understanding over 
Mosul fail. And when England was unable to come to an 
agreement with the Turks, the League of Nations at the end 
of 1924 sent a commission of three to Mosul to investigate 
on the spot what was the real position with regard to the 
minorities problem and whether the Kurds were to be con- 
sidered Turanian or Iranian or something else. 

And here there occurred an incident which we must chron- 
icle before we close this history of the oil-war. In the last days 
of January the three gentlemen sent by the League arrived 
in Mosul, and at the end of the first week in February there 
broke out — a revolt of the Kurds against the Turks. A 
religious, nationalist, conservative movement against western- 
izing Angora. And fourteen days later the rebels made them- 
selves over to a son of the dead Abdul Hamid, one of the 
protegds of Mr. Untermeyer, who, on the ground of that 
exalted connection, claimed the vilayet of Mosul — and its 
oil, and this ambitious prince was now in all haste proclaimed 
King of Kurdistan. There is no doubt about it ; there everyone 
uses double thread for weaving. First of all, Mosul belongs 
to the Kurds who have long been settled there, who have 
obviously agreed to accept the doctrine of the British scholars 
and to be Iranian and not Turanian by origin. Next Mosul 



l6o ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

belongs to the Kurds, not only on the ground that they live 
there but first and doubly rightly because of the claims of 
heritage put forward by the king hastily elected for that reason. 
As against these legitimist claims Kemal Pasha is a mere 
usurper. There remains the pertinent question, Who is at 
the back of all this ? Who pulls the strings so masterfully before 
the eyes of the League's commission ? 

And then on March nth there appears in a report from 
Constantinople for the first time this sentence : 

Here there is a general tendency to ascribe the origin of the 
rebellion to British instigation. 

And then — at last : 

Letters have been found addressed to the Kurdish Ministry 
of War. They were sent by a foreign armaments maker. 

And here it seems we have come again to Mr. Zaharoff. 
Once again, but for the last time in this world conflict over 
the oil of Mesopotamia, there rises from a clouded background 
the profile of this old man, his imperial now all white. Once 
again, but for the last time, it seems that his bony fingers 
have been mixing the cards of national destinies. And as he 
was now at the end of it all, the world war for oil was also 
at an end. France, England, Germany, America, and also 
Greeks, Turks, Arabs, Druses, and Kurds. He was now 
seventy-six and he looked upon all that he had made and he 
saw that it was horrible. 

But now what really had happened ? That that "foreign 
armaments maker" was none other than Sir Basil Zaharoff 
is alleged by our Turkish authority and bearer of the famous 
name of E., by our very reliable witness Ro., by the well- 
informed Otto Lehmann-Russbueldt in his Blutige Inter- 
nationale der Ruestungsindustrie, by the Biographisches Arcbiv. 
of Berlin, and by several newspapers. But no proof is brought 
forward and I have not succeeded in getting more than an 



NATIONS AS PAWNS 26 1 

indication or two that it may be true. The question whether 
the old man really came out again or not, or whether it was 
one of the younger men, one of his pupils in mystery — there 
is no answer to that last question. 

Back to our history. The oil-political significance of the 
Kurdish revolt was revealed a few days later — on March 1 5 th. 
On that day Reuter reported from Bagdad : 

A convention which will remain in force for seventy-five 
years was signed yesteday between the Turkish Petroleum 
Company and the Government of Irak. It concerns the petrol 
output of that country, and provides for the building of a 
pipe line to the Mediterranean. The participation of the 
Turkish Petroleum Company will be shared equally with the four 
interested groups with a combined capital of £1,000,000,000 
sterling, viz. the Anglo-Persian Oil Co., the Royal Dutch Shell 
Corporation, seven of the chief American companies, including 
the Standard Oil Co., and sixty-five French companies. The 
convention provides that a British subject will always be 
chairman. 

The battle thus was over. That is the oil peace of Mosul. 
France and America, too, have succeeded in swallowing a 
morsel. Thus for the affairs of Mr. Zaharoff the peace of Mosul 
had ended a victorious war. But at this conclusion of peace, 
his name is not mentioned. 

Simultaneously with the rising of the Kurds against the 
Turks, in the first days of March the Druses rose against the 
French. They showed themselves to be very well armed, and 
with Vickers' products, too, although it could not be definitely 
established whence they came. But now when, on March 15 th, 
peace was declared between the Great Powers, Kurds and 
Druses ceased to be of interest and their efforts at independence, 
religious and national, only a nuisance. Both were bloodily 
crushed. The Kurds by the Turks, the Druses by the French, 
in which latter enterprise the British very kindly aided. On 
Christmas Day, 1925, on the grounds supplied by the com- 
i» 



262 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

mission which had studied the questions on the spot, the League 
decided to whom would fall the Mosul area. But even if there 
never had been a Kurdish rising, the gentlemen in Geneva 
were confronted, through the conclusion of the oil peace by 
the Great Powers, with a fait accompli. We have heard that the 
powers who thereby had come to an agreement represented 
one thousand million pounds sterling. There was no authority 
on earth which would undertake anything against that figure. 
So on that Christmas Day, 1925, the League of Nations let 
the Turks down and assigned Mosul to Irak. 

The final notes of the swansong : 

At the beginning of 1926 the Turks resolved that they would 
not be let down, and that they would make war against Eng- 
land. That was the time when Chamberlain, in answer to 
Ponsonby's question, said that the Turks could be rearmed 
in complete security, for a war on the part of Turkey against 
England was impossible to imagine. Possibly he was not 
altogether wrong, for he knew already the British counter- 
move. There is in Asia Minor a pretty little province called 
Cilicia, the same province as Lloyd George at the Paris con- 
ference mixed up with Sicily, according to one version of the 
story, and with Silesia according to another. In order to tie 
the hands of the bellicose Turks the British promised Cilicia . . . 
but we shall not take the responsibility for this statement. 
The assertion comes from France and from Henry de Jouvenel, 
who is no Anglophil : 

At the beginning of the year 1926, when the decision of the 
League of Nations on Mosul nearly produced an Anglo- 
Turkish war, Britain offered Cilicia to Italy as a bait. I was at 
that time as High Commissioner for Syria on a visit to Angora. 
Personally I have not the slightest doubt that the understand- 
ing which was then reached between Britain and the Turkish 
Government was due to the fear of the Turks that the Italians 
would land in Cilicia. The Turks accordingly gave way to 
Britain and the Italians found their hopes of adventure deluded. 



NATIONS AS PAWNS 263 

It remains, too, to record that the new partners of Mosul, 
the signatories to the final peace of Mosul, soon fell to 
squabbling. The cause of the dispute was the route the pipe- 
line should take to the Mediterranean. France wanted it to 
go through Syria ; Britain insisted on a long detour south 
so as to go through a British protectorate. America remained 
neutral. After squabbling for years agreement was reached. 
The pipe-line, now completed and in operation, leads west- 
wards from Mosul to the Irak frontier. There it divides ; 
one branch goes to French Syria, the other to British Palestine. 
As the dispute was fought out on Biblical soil a Solomonic 
solution was entirely appropriate. 

One word over the plunder secured in this world war, 
and a word, too, on the oil of Mosul to exploit which that 
one thousand million pounds activity was set in motion, for 
which Kings and Ministers were overthrown, treaties concluded 
and treaties torn up, for which a man from Tatavla, year 
after year of his old age, fought like a warrior of old and for 
which half a dozen nations in blind heroism and under flags 
that they did not see sent their young men to die on the 
battlefield. After a great initial success, after the loud prophecies 
of the engineers, after the fine hopes, especially in France, 
quiet slowly descended on the oil of Mosul. The reports on 
output are contradictory. Some say that there a sea of oil 
awaits release, and that its release is only delayed for market 
and price-control reasons ; others say that the productive value 
of the Mesopotamian fields has fallen far short of the original 
estimates. The future will show which account is the right one. 
And if those are right who say that the sea of oil does not 
even exist ? Then once again a world war will have been fought 
about nothing. 

No, not about nothing. Here we may quote the letter 
of a certain Vahan Cardashian, the plenipotentiary of the 
delegation of the Republic of Armenia, to the United States 
Senator Borah : 



264 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

I make the charge that two members of the President's 
Cabinet used the cause of the Armenians at the Lausanne 
conference as a matter for barter and entered into a con- 
spiracy the result of which was that for a share in the oil of 
Mosul nearly a million Armenians were driven from their 
homes and that now intrigues are on foot to get the oil fields 
in the region these victims had left. I make the charge that these 
men and their accomplices have used the Foreign Office as 
their willing tool in this iniquity and are still using it to carry 
out their nefarious designs. A Government which has sur- 
rendered America's legitimate rights and has then been so 
shameless as to fill the air with false data, rumours, and lies, 
in order to divert the attention of the public from their 
scandalous machinations — such a Government, I say, will not 
hesitate and has not hesitated, for the sake of a pair of its 
proteges and for petrol, to sacrifice our Armenian nation and 
our fatherland. 

So we have to add a million Armenians to the score ; we 
had nearly overlooked them. In that letter it is all a question 
of America and Armenia ; there is no mention in it of Mr. Basil 
ZaharofT. The fate of a thousand thousand Armenians mas- 
sacred or otherwise sent to the devil, blood for oil, profit and 
loss, will have to be entered to the account of other gentlemen. 
All that interests us no longer. Our work as an oil-detective 
is finished. 



VI 

THE PRIVATE LIFE OF AN OLD GENTLEMAN 

But now, when Sir Basil Zaharoff, just before he attained his 
end, had confused the trail and disappeared from the dusty 
highways and turned aside into a sandy, palm-shaded private 
road, his hair white, leaning on his stick, yet as upright as 
ever, as befits one who has companioned with death — now let 
us once again look at him, our child of fortune. Has he at last 
really reached that point of time which is called for mortal 
men the evening of their days ? We have a suspicion that in 
that meteoric career of his, in that dizzy ascent he has forgotten, 
has overlooked one thing, for one thing he has never had time : 
life itself. What of life now ? Now while he strolls along that 
private road he has leisure and time to think it all over. 

Where did we last see him living the life of a private indi- 
vidual ? It was after the World War which, after a slight and 
soon finished struggle, with the strength of a robust and 
unclouded conscience, he lived through and at the end of 
which he was one of the most powerful and possibly one of 
the richest men in the world, a symbol and ripe to become a 
legend. He has collected orders and titles ; he has endowed 
chairs at universities and war hospitals ; he is "the great 
philanthropist" as he was called in the caption to that picture 
of Miss Yvonne Zaharoff. Do not smile at that honourable 
description. A saying of his in these days has come down to 
us. It was said to his friend O'Connor : "Whenever I spend 
money I think how best I can spend it to the advantage of 
my fellow-men." And do not smile at that either. If it was a 
jest, it was a terrible jest. But he said it quite seriously, and that 
calm seriousness is perhaps more terrible still. "Would that 
all Kings and Ministers had as easy a conscience as I," as Emil 
Ludwig makes him say in that scene which we quoted. Mr. 



266 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

Zaharoff spends his money. He does not spend it only on chairs 
for universities, seamen's homes, a prize for literature. He 
spends it on poor children. He spends two hundred thousand 
francs so that the French athletes can take part in the Olympic 
contests at Amsterdam. He gives money for a clinic for infec- 
tious diseases in Athens. He gives to the Inter-Parliamentary 
Union in Paris, to build Greek Legations, to the football club 
of Tatavla, to the Russian royalists, to the Paris Zoo, for the 
securing of a valuable Mozart MS., and for a silly photograph 
album which has been put up for auction for charitable pur- 
poses by the singer Melba. And all that is done so purpose- 
fully, so carefully planned, even in the most private things, 
that even romance in his life takes a form which in others would 
be business. Think only of that romantic hate, that Oedipus- 
hate of his Turkish fatherland to which the last curve of that 
spiral staircase has brought him back in his old age. Thus he 
runs his life's race at once passionate, romantic, and prudent, 
hunter and hunted in one, with the whip of childhood misery 
at his back — gatherer of power, gatherer of money, collector 
of titles, confidant of queens, and friend through life of a 
grandee of Spain. Aye, one is never done with the lady of the 
three and thirty names, with that Maria del Pilar Antonia 
Angela Patrocinio Simona de Miguero y Beruete, the Duchess. 
It is a lifetime, more than a lifetime, since the advanturer, the 
Casanova of St. Petersburg, the man with the gaudy ties, 
met the hapless lady. And as his relation to this woman was 
at the beginning of the career of Sir Basil Zaharoff, so it is 
at the end. That is the last and boldest turn of all. Behind 
guns and petrol, behind millions of wrecked lives and millions 
in gold, behind battles on the Bourse and triumphs of wire- 
pulling the last story of this man is a love-story. The most 
ordinary and at the same time the most romantic love-story, 
equal to the nature of this man in its every detail and to the 
greatness of the shadow which he cast on the globe. We have 
to tell it now. 



THE PRIVATE LIFE OF AN OLD GENTLEMAN 267 

Or rather, we have to tell its sequel, for we know its begin- 
ning. A man of forty, an adventurer with a more than shady 
past, meets this newly wed cousin of the Spanish Bourbon 
kings ; and he who in his younger years had made profit out 
of human passions and perhaps out of his own passion, sees 
this passing connection with a woman delivered into those 
clutching hands of his, the hands of a master, slip from the 
control of his cool will and turn into love. He seeks to stay, 
to possess, this man who knows at what he aims ; he will all 
and for ever and before all eyes and in conformity with those 
bourgeois laws which he has so despised and so often outraged 
be the wedded husband of this stranger from a strange world. 
We know how this bourgeois romantic dream faded. The 
pious Catholic would not hear of a divorce. The Bourbon 
husband, the sickly, late-born scion of a worn-out stock 
became insane and disappeared behind the walls of a Spanish 
asylum. But the light of life flickered in him and would not 
be quenched. He did not die. And so what was at first the bold 
adventure became toned down from bourgeois romantic hopes 
to the careful reasonable life of every day. The woman, the 
duchess, was not free. But she could follow the friend of her 
choice abroad, year after year, on his journeys to that south 
coast of France which became full of memory for him because 
of these half-mysteries of a communion that has ever to be 
won again, to be fought for, and becomes ever dearer. But 
the light of that madman's life — it went on flickering. So the 
years passed. What happened in the meantime ? Wars, and 
conspiracies, lust of power and greed of gain, obstinate 
silence and the cruel trampling of the vanquished, we have 
tried to establish. Also that the Spanish lady gave birth to 
three daughters ; we remember the photograph which in the 
best years of his life was taken in an idle moment from the 
morocco pocket-book of a certain gentleman. Meantime they 
have become girls and then women. The names of their 
husbands still come up to us from the din and turmoil of 



268 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

armaments conflicts and battles in Board rooms. The din 
and turmoil are stilled ; the flames are burned out. The young 
ladies, children of such widely different parents, meantime have 
passed on into their own lives. One died, two live. But the man 
from Tatavla and the Spanish duchess wait. For the light of life 
of that madman behind barred windows — it still flickers. 

We know this hidden tragedy of a life, reeling drunk 
with successes, victories, conquests, only so far as it peeps 
out here and there from behind these successes, victories, 
conquests. We know this much, that the conqueror and his 
beloved must have become old in it, very old. And now when 
the flames have burned out and all the victories are won, we 
see these two greyhaired old people, man and woman, with the 
loyalty of romantic love and all the tenacity of the old, holding 
fast to the marriage plans of their youth, always holding to 
them, always, even on the edge of death. It seems as if it 
was something that did not fit in in the mathematics of our 
meteor. Thou canst Helen possess or gold ; never both. And 
so it is just this which fills the mind of this man of mystery, 
this dealer in the deaths of men still at the height of his career, 
of his power, of his wealth, and will not let him rest. So long 
as this man from the poor quarter of Constantinople is not 
in his sense worthy of the Spanish duchess, so long as he cannot 
possess her and so give to her that which in spite of all that 
madman possessed and could have given her, so long life is 
not life. For that reason, and not to serve his robber-career, 
did he collect orders and titles. For that and not because of 
the chance of a bargain did he buy castles and palaces every- 
where in the land. It is the secret royal dream of a boy which 
stirs in the brain of a greybeard. And now when the heights 
are reached and the dark bourne possibly is not very far away, 
it will be transformed into reality with all the tenacity and 
cunning of a Levantine reckoner, with all the daring of a 
potentate who has nothing more to fear in the world. Now that 
we have tracked down so much we will not let ourselves be 



THE PRIVATE LIFE OF AN OLD GENTLEMAN 269 

worn out until we have followed to its end this last business 
deal of Mr. Basil Zaharoff. 

It is, first of all, not more than a queer business, a real 
Zaharoff affair. So far you have only been allowed to see the 
end of it attained, when one day you saw Sir Basil appear as 
the owner of the casino of Monte Carlo. But the transaction 
is essentially something very different and more human than 
just a belated return to his old game of a foreigner's guide, to 
the "gambling dens" of his youth. The gist of the matter is 
simply this, that on the occasion of the partitioning of the 
globe in 1 91 8, very privately and for personal reasons only, 
Zaharoff bought himself a principality. 

A word on history. Here is the so-called Principality of 
Monaco — so-called, for since the Treaty of Peronne in 1641 
it is a part of France, and nothing was left to its prince, a 
Grimaldi, but a semblance of sovereignty. A French garrison 
was quartered upon him, and the prince was called its "capi- 
taine et gouverneur," and wore a uniform, but was commanded, 
really commanded from Paris. Still, a few private rights were 
preserved to the prince. And it was in virtue of one of them 
that in 1862 a concession was granted for the founding of a 
casino in Monte Carlo to a former waiter named Francois 
Blanc, who had risen to be a casino manager in Bad Homburg. 
This casino soon developed into a most lucrative business, 
one of the most lucrative in the world, and remained so even 
after the death of its founder. Then the profits flowed into five 
pockets, for the three sons of Francois associated with them 
in the casino, two sons-in-law, both noblemen, a Prince 
Radziwill and a Prince Bonaparte. But then the ex-Empress 
Eugenie raised a protest against this Bonaparte venture into 
partnership, and the family property was turned into a com- 
pany, and of the three sons and two sons-in-law there remained 
only one in the business, as president of the company, Camille 
Blanc. As president, be it said, not only of the company ; he 
is de facto president of the State ; he is the absolute monarch and 



270 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

uncrowned ruler of the principality whose prince even in this 
domain is now reduced to a semblance of sovereignty. But this 
complete deposition is almost as good a bit of business for the 
prince as the casino was for the Blanc family. For who pays the 
taxes for the twenty thousand citizens of this community ? 
The casino, i.e. M. Blanc. Who pays the police, the judges, 
the army, who pays for the public works ? The casino, i.e. 
M. Blanc. Aye, who pays the insatiable ruling prince himself, 
his civil list, as well as his numerous special desires and special 
pleasures from a huge automobile to a little outer fort at the 
harbour ? The casino, i.e. M. Blanc. M. Blanc pays every- 
thing. It costs something to be ruler of this land over the 
ruler. And he found the bill always there. So long it went on 
until the Great War proved a little too powerful a competitor 
for the great industry of pleasure, and business dwindled, 
and until Grimaldi, who liked his civil list, began to be a little 
displeased with his paymaster. That was in the summer of 
1 91 8. And then a cloud appeared. A cloud which was to be 
the cause of a slight change in the situation. The cloud once 
again was called Mr. Basil Zaharoff. He was sixty-nine now, 
and well on the way to become one of the real winners of a 
war which was as good as won, possessed of power and titles, 
and of more good gold than ever a living man had been able 
to get together. Where did he live when he was not on business 
in Paris or London, and helping to direct a World War ? He 
had a country house at Beaulieu on the blue sea coast which 
was very comforting to a lady from Spain. Did she want life, 
did she have a yearning to get out of the quiet prison of the 
park for a little amusement, they went over to Monte Carlo 
and signed their names like everyone else in the visitors' 
book in the casino and enjoyed seeing these madmen from 
all over the world getting skinned in the magnificent hall 
decorated in the Western style, skinned in the good old 
Tatavla way. He was no fool this Francois Blanc, who erected 
this snare for humanity. And if Mr. Zaharoff had not by chance 



THE PRIVATE LIFE OF AN OLD GENTLEMAN 27 1 

become a maker of guns he would have liked well to be a 
croupier. Occasionally he said so among his intimates ; they 
laughed and the Spanish lady, too, laughed, deep down in 
her throat, that laugh that even now, so many years after, went 
straight to his heart. 

That went on until one day in the early summer of 191 8 
the thought suddenly came up against reality. A certain Count 
Balny d'Avricourt called upon him, the Minister of His Highness 
the Prince of Monaco, the prince who was discontented with 
his paymaster and who as one great man to another cautiously 
broached the matter of whether and how far. But no, it was 
here that the cloud came over the scene. When it had passed, 
at least one treaty had been evolved. A secret option. Mr. Basil 
Zaharoff was to be able, at a date still to be fixed by him, to 
get possession of the casino of Monte Carlo, and show the 
sons and sons-in-law of the ingenious M. Francois Blanc the 
door. When that would happen, how it would happen, how 
much good money passed from one pocket to the other on 
this occasion — that is wrapped in mystery. And only this much 
is certain, that Mr. Basil Zaharoff, even at this first encounter 
with his Riviera neighbour, must have discussed more than the 
casino, in fact how, via the casino, to get control of the prince 
who was so desirous of cash. And via the prince of the princi- 
pality. For that is precisely what the man from Tatavla did 
not yet possess and what he for the sake of these constant 
dreams and secret needs of life of his must still conquer, 
occupy, possess : a principality for a woman. 

How far Albert, Prince of Monaco, had a look at the cards 
held by his dangerous but obliging partner we do not know. 
Whether he (and his Minister) was innocent enough not to see 
what the game was, or whether he did see and shrugging his 
shoulders like a gentleman saw also a chance to get rid of his 
tiresome gilded throne at last and in compensation to have for the 
rest of a princely life, which he hoped would be long and which 
needed much money, ample means and freedom from care ; 



272 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

here, too, it is not possible to speak definitely. This alone is 
certain, that from that day forth the prince was obedient as a 
lamb to the instructions of the Levantine. And therein he did 
not do unwisely from the point of view of prestige. 

For scarcely was the secret treaty between Mr. Zaharoff 
and the throne of Monaco arranged when that crown received 
a completely unexpected accession of power and elevation. 
What was this Monaco with its semblance of sovereignty? 
Just a province of France. For two centuries the House of 
Grimaldi had in vain tried to prevent it being just so. But now 
when a certain gentleman from the Levant takes an interest in 
the business, things take a different turn. Now for the first 
time for a quarter of a millennium, notes of state of a Mone- 
gasque prince which were buried in the offices and archives of 
Paris began to move. For this gentleman from the Levant 
cannot carry out his plans unless this prince is sovereign 
and can really and without first obtaining the blessing of 
Paris dispose of crown and country. 

In Paris there was in power a man who maintained intimate 
and close relations with the man from Tatavla — M. Georges 
Clemenceau. And there actually happened this extraordinary 
thing, that in the middle of the World War this M. Clemenceau 
on July 17, 1918, without any apparent occasion for it, con- 
cluded a treaty with the Prince of Monaco, which said that 
from now on Monaco was once again to be considered a 
sovereign principality according to law. Still more surprising 
and, for those who are not acquainted with the private history 
I have related, still more incomprehensible than the apparent 
inconsequence of this surrender of a territory lying close to 
the ever-sensitive Italian frontier — and that in the middle of 
a war> — is the circumstance that this treaty was kept rigidly 
secret. Until in 191 9, for of course it had to be made public 
some time, it was revealed — quite casually, unnoticed except 
by some specialists, and if one may use the phrase, printed in 
very small type — and in the Treaty of Versailles. There it 



THE PRIVATE LIFE OF AN OLD GENTLEMAN 273 

lay buried in Part xv, Article 436, among so many highly 
important parts and articles that it was not easy to find it. And 
if it were discovered it was easy to give the Press a hint to 
pass over Article 436 in silence. But there was in the French 
Parliament one single unpleasant inquirer, the Senator Gaudin 
de Villaine, whose watchfulness has caused us to meet him 
twice already, and who tried to have some light shed on this 
dark story. But he also knew of the surprising order to the 
Press to say nothing at all about this highly suspicious Franco- 
Monegasque treaty, and a specially suspicious Article 11 of 
this suspicious treaty struck him very forcibly, the article 
which "pledges France to give financial help in the event 
of a failure of the casino of Monaco." But he knew nothing 
of the real circumstances, and so M. Poincard, to whom he 
addressed his question, had no difficulty in reducing him to 
silence. 

But we know more than M. Gaudin de Villaine ; we know 
the man behind the scenes, the man who was behind this 
extraordinary treaty, and so we have once again to follow one 
of Mr. ZaharofFs private affairs right across world history. 

He had no time to make use of his option at the moment. 
We are now in the autumn of 191 8, in November — when peace 
broke out. And after that time Mr. Zaharoff was involved in 
an oil war against France. In July 1921, at the time of the 
great Greek offensive which threatened Constantinople with 
occupation and Kemal Pasha with downfall, in these July 
days Sir Basil Zaharoff, master of war, master of oil, master 
of banks, and "chief inspirer of British policy" found himself 
at the very height of his power. And just then — if we dare 
believe the evidence of Baroness P. — he received the news 
from Spain that the mad husband of the duchess was at last 
near his end. Actually something like that must have happened, 
for now in these July days the man from Tatavla appears for 
the first time and unnoticed as the plenipotentiary of the 
duchess. He is very sure that nothing will need to be hid longer. 



274 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

He bought in the lady's name a castle — Chateau Balincourt, 
near Paris, once the possession of that Baroness Vaughan who 
lived in morganatic union with Leopold n of Belgium. 

Sir Basil bought up all the post-cards on which the chateau 
was shown and expressly forbade the taking of photographs — 

We may remember the report which we quoted earlier in 
another connection. To which yet another statement of Ro. 
may be added, that between this new-bought Chateau Balin- 
court, which was obviously intended for a summer residence, 
and the princely castle in Monaco there was a constant and 
animated interchange of letters. The option of 191 8 was 
apparently going to be exercised. Preparations for the rise and 
enthronement of a new dynasty. And the royal dream of a 
greybeard came nearer and nearer to realization. Only a very 
short time, only a little longer need he wait now. For the light 
of life of that madman behind Spanish walls, that light was 
flickering. 

It flickered ; but it would not go out. And on other fronts 
things did not turn out as they were intended to, either. It 
was not Constantinople that fell, but Lloyd George. At the 
end of the year 1922 it was Lord Curzon who ruled, and 
Mr. ZaharofF had been made politically impotent. Certainly 
he had fallen on his feet. He demanded the return of the Bos- 
porus docks, and thus torpedoed the first conference of 
Lausanne. He let French and Germans tear each other to bits 
in the Ruhr. He broke with Greece to have a free hand with 
the Turks. Aye, he is more alive and more like a dangerous 
beast of prey than ever he has been. But then suddenly, after 
an important political banquet in London, to extract whose 
secret we have wrestled in vain, Mr. ZaharofF hurriedly returns 
to France, and then suddenly — that, too, we have related — his 
political activity is at an end. We are now at May 15, 1923, 
when Mr. ZaharofF so abruptly disappeared from our ken. 
We promised we would continue our investigation in other 



THE PRIVATE LIFE OF AN OLD GENTLEMAN 275 

places and here we are. It is not exactly easy to get an insight 
into the psychological state of our hero at this date. He had 
been very ill ; more, our authority Menevee relates that in 
those weeks for the first time a report got about of his death. 
Now he was better again, and in May 1923 he was once again 
engaged in politics, cautiously but actively. But what if you 
die ? What if you die before that madman dies ? Then you must 
not wait any longer unless, perhaps, you yourself wait on 
death and have not only lost a life but the deepest and truest 
meaning of your own life. But however one may estimate 
the psychological basis, the fact remains that Basil Zaharoff, 
directly after the French Press had reported his return to France, 
re-appeared in Monte Carlo. On May 1 8th — if we may trust 
Ro. — after he had disappeared from London and from his 
business affairs on the 14th. And in the days immediately 
following something happened down there. There was a 
coup d'itat, that is to say, if one identifies the casino with the 
Monegasque state. A coup d'etat from above I Accomplices : 
the prince — and Mr. Zaharoff freshly returned from another 
scene of action. There was, of course, no bloodshed. There 
was a short session of the board of control of the casino, 
so unsuspicious a happening that M. Camille Blanc did not 
trouble to attend it. Mr. Zaharoff, on other fronts, had some 
experience of meetings of boards of control. Only his men of 
straw turned up and distinguished themselves a little. He 
himself spent the afternoon under the trees on the terrace of the 
Casino and looked seawards with the fixed stare of an old man. 
On the evening of that day the absent Camille Blanc was 
overthrown. Two days later there was presented at a London 
bank the big cheque which Mr. Zaharoff had signed for that 
purpose. It was for one million pounds sterling. 

The date of this coup d'itat of an over-powerful cheque-book 
we shall fix : early summer 1923. And in November the event 
happened. A death notice arrived. The light of life in that 
madman had gone out at last. There had been four-and-thirty 



276 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

years of waiting for that, but Mr. Basil Zaharoff was once again 
the victor. And he had that principality, too, in his hand and 
was turning his dream into reality and nothing stood now in 
the way of realizing the royal vision. He had held out for four- 
and-thirty years ; for the year of mourning that custom pre- 
scribed, another year of waiting, the patience of this man could 
not hold out longer. After ten of the twelve months, actually 
nine weeks before the term of mourning expired, on Septem- 
ber 22, 1924 — but we must read of this in the Press ; even the 
Matin, which was so ill-disposed to Mr. Basil Zaharoff, could 
not help admitting the greatness of the occasion, and celebrated 
it in large type and fat headlines. That is the topmost peak of 
a life. So let us take our time as if we were newspaper readers 
from France. 

Mysterious Wedding of the Mysterious Sir Basil 
Zaharoff 

Sir Basil Zaharoff Weds with Extraordinary Secrecy a Grandee 

of Spain 

From our Special Correspondent 

In a sudden fit of modesty the great ones of the earth feel the 
need to hide their good fortune from the gaze of ordinary 
mortals. So yesterday M. Basil Zaharoff sought to cover his 
wedding with a thick veil of mystery. But he did not quite 
succeed. 

Yesterday, therefore, at 10.30 at the mairie of the pretty little 
village of Arronville, Monsieur Zaharoff was married to the 
Duchess of Marchena, whereby he acquires, so we are assured, 
incontestably the rank of a grandee of Spain. 

Because of the age of the bride and bridegroom, as well as 
because of the deliberate avoidance of all pomp and circum- 
stance, the ceremony had a certain austerity about it. Sir Basil 
Zaharoff — whose birth is also wrapped in mystery — acknow- 
ledges that he is 78, and the duchess, although considerably 
younger than her worthy bridegroom, has already with s milin g 
grace taken up the role of grandmother. 



THE PRIVATE LIFE OF AN OLD GENTLEMAN 2JJ 

All Arronville had known since the 9th of September that 
the chatelaine of Balincourt was going to marry one of the 
richest men in the world. But when would the ceremony take 
place ? No one could boast that he knew that, not even the 
worthy mayor himself. 

Then about half-past ten yesterday morning five people got 
out of a car ; the bride and bridegroom, their two witnesses, 
and a son-in-law of the duchess. There was practically no one 
in the street — according to orders. But if the strangers had been 
able to see through closed shutters they would have seen a 
whole population armed with opera-glasses and telescopes. 
M. Basil Zaharoff climbed up the steps of the mairie, aiding his 
gouty legs with a stick, with the duchess his bride. 

Under pretext that it might rain, the mayor had closed the 
shutters of the room in which the marriage took place, to the 
great disappointment of all the opera-glasses and telescopes. 
As the leading authority on fashion in Arronville told us, the 
bridegroom was admirable in grey "with a big American hat," 
and the duchess was in marocain. 

We would have liked to have learned from the genial mayor 
of Arronville about this important event for the report of which 
we have to thank the army of opera-glasses and telescopes. It 
was no use. The worthy official was dumb. He smiled and said 
nothing. In vain we sought the help of the secretary ; he was 
even more silent than his superior. With a look of fury he 
quickly tore from the door of the mairie the notice — but still 
too late — which informed the world that M. Zacharie Zaharoff 
and Madame Maria del Pilar, Duchess of Villafranca de los 
Caballeros and many other places, gave notice of marriage. 

That happened on September 22, 1924. The dynasty Villa- 
franca-Zaharoffor Zohar or Sahar, the dynasty of the new lords 
of Monaco, derived from the Houses of Bourbon and Tatavla 
■ — or perhaps from Wilkomir — this most extraordinary of all 
dynasties, is now really founded, and as good as enthroned. 
How did the new prince from the East enter his heritage ? 
How did he come into his kingdom ? On that we have a report 
in the conversations with our authority Ro., the representative 



278 2AHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

of a prince, and a gambler who in Monte Carlo is in his own 
special domain. Zaharoff, so he says, had been a speculator 
all his life, but never a gambler. And so he had no use at all 
for the almost patriarchal methods of the blessed Francois 
Blanc. He had not the tiny domain in his possession for a 
fortnight ere free entry into the casino was abolished, and 
every visitor had to take a ticket. That brought in three 
million additional francs a year. The lowest tariffs were 
doubled. Up to now every third or fourth inhabitant of Monaco 
had been an employee of the casino ; the sinecures were 
abolished and the superfluous thrown into the street. The 
passage money for ruined gamblers was done away with, 
and paid only in a few cases. The Blancs would never let it be 
said that anyone could become a beggar in the gold and marble 
establishment. So they had allowed small pensions to those 
who had lost their all at the tables — ten, fifteen francs a day. 
Among the pensioners were peers from England, marquises 
from France, and Russian proprietors of great estates in parti- 
bus infidelium. The new owner of the land was untouched by 
such sentimentality. The pensions ceased. The pensioners 
got two months' money on the spot and a ticket to Paris. 
Thus at the end it was not Bourbon which took possession 
of the land but Tatavla. The great adventurer, a crown on 
his snow-white hair — in spite of everything it is not certain 
whether it is a princely crown or a fool's cap — turns his 
royal dream into reality while he sacks employees and deprives 
ruined gamblers of their pension. He has attained his end, 
or as good as attained it. But there is no trace of relaxation, 
pleasure, or the feeling of having arrived, to be found in his 
looks. Here is a tale related by Ro. 

Zaharoff was lord of the principality and of the casino ; every- 
one knew that. Many a gambler plucked up courage to go up to 
his chair and say : "Sir Basil, I have lost my money. You are 
the richest man in the world." No one ever got further. The 
old gentleman fixed him with cold, hate-filled eyes, and what 



THE PRIVATE LIFE OF AN OLD GENTLEMAN 279 

he said stuck in the gizzard of the petitioner, "Go to the devil," 
said the old boy, and he said it in any language you liked. 
He could insult you in English, French, Italian, Greek, Russian, 
with the same fluency. Once a lady in English society went up 
to him on the terrace. He would probably have liked nothing 
better than to chase her away with his stick, but he could not get 
rid of her so easily and snarled out a greeting. She said : "Help 
me, Sir Basil. As everything belongs to you, you must know 
how to win." He answered : "I don't bother with the casino, I 
don't e/en know what they play there. But I can give you one 
bit of advice. Not how you'll win, but how most certainly you 
won't lose." She : "Oh, do tell me." He : "Don't play," and 
shut his eyes as a sign that the interview was ended. 

Another tale reported by Lewinsohn : 

A French journalist went to Zaharoff with the question 
which had once been asked in the Chamber of Deputies. 
What nationality did he claim to be, and how did he get his 
high honours. The answer was a card with the words, in 
French : "M. ZaharorT having no voice you cannot make him 
sing" (/aire chanter). 

Faire chanter means to blackmail. 

A third tale reported by P. of London : 

Monte Carlo. The terrace of the casino. ZaharorT is sitting 
in the sun. A couple of gentlemen newly arrived, belonging "to 
the best families in the Phanar," that is, to that Greek aristocracy 
on the Bosporus to which ZaharorT in his younger days was 
bound by such ties of affectation, take up their stand near him 
and say half loud out : "Is it he or isn't it?" Then the old man, 
whose ears are so sharp, turns his head slowly and calls to them : 
"Certainly it is, gentlemen. The scoundrel ZaharorT from 
Tatavla !" 

For those who have ears to hear, there is something there 
more human than in those other pleasant but paltry tales of 
avarice. What comes out there is the secret bitterness of one 



280 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

who after a long life of victory attains his end, thinks he has 
attained it and stretches out bony hands to seize the prize of 
victory. But no, let us read of this, too, in the newspapers. 
On September 22, 1924, Zaharoff had married the Duchess 
of Villafranca. Eighteen months later, on February 26, 1926, 
this appeared in the Temps : 

Yesterday, after a short illness, there died in Monte Carlo 
Madame Basil Zaharoff, Duchess of Villafranca. The loss of this 
noble lady, whose goodness and generosity were proverbial, 
will be deeply regretted by all who came in contact with her 
and who knew her charm, her culture, her wit, and her 
benevolence which she practised so quietly. 

Thus the prize of victory before the grasping, bony hands 
of the man who had arrived at it after such exertion turned 
into nothingness. Eighteen months of married life after four- 
and-thirty years of waiting. It is a tragedy, and this is the fifth 
act of it. Here there has slipped an error into the calculations 
of this great reckoner. The coup d'itat of Monte Carlo, that 
dream of royalty so boldly dreamed and turned into very 
reality by a Levantine adventurer for the sake of a duchess of 
the House of Bourbon, via the casino, peace treaties, a greedy 
dynasty, was shattered because every risk had been covered 
except one, and a way to avoid that one had not been found 
even in Tatavla. Here a stronger than he intervened. Here 
the great business man Zaharoff met someone more powerful 
than he, and so this one bit of business, this last bit of business 
was never carried out to the end. Two months later he sold 
Monte Carlo to the banking house of Dreyfus. He did so 
without denying his past even in his grief. He had bought 
it for a million pounds sterling ; he sold it for three million 
four hundred thousand. From the Monte Carlo-Monaco 
transaction, from the royal dream which was not realized, 
he drew a profit of 240 per cent. 

In the same year he sold out his Vickers holdings as well. 



THE PRIVATE LIFE OF AN OLD GENTLEMAN 28 1 

The Company had slipped from his control ; other men were 
at its helm, were steering on a wrong course of expansion — 
and as a result the only possible chance of salvation was by 
an amalgamation with the Armstrong company, which was 
also in the same dangerous position. This coup by which 
Armstrong shareholders got much the worst of it as compared 
with the Vickers shareholders must have been started by the 
old man himself, trembling now though his hands were, before 
he sold his holdings and went out of business. That was on 
the 1 6th of October, 1927, an appropriate time for the pre- 
sentation of a chalice on which was inscribed : 

Presented to Sir Basil ZaharofF, Grand Cross of the Order 
of the British Empire and of the Order of the Bath, by the 
chairman and directors of the Vickers Company on the occasion 
of his completion of fifty years' connection with the company, 
and as token of its keen realization of the valuable work 
which he has done for it, in cordial gratitude and with deep 
respect. 

It was fifty years since he had sold that first Nordenfeldt 
submarine. Half a century. So the swansong finished ofF, 
so the obituary was set up. But although in 1927 he was once 
more reported among the dead, we will not let this man die 
so soon. Now, when he has put behind him offices, honours, 
business affairs, and passions great and small, and has lived 
life out to the end, now, when nothing more remains for him 
to do but sit down there in the sun in Monte Carlo, and to 
wait for that power who, as commission for the negotiation 
of many a fat deal, will pay him a quiet old age with days of 
life for coin — now, before we take final leave of him, we must 
look once again at him, the child of fortune. 

We are not told whether at the death of his much loved 
wife and after so long a struggle for her he let himself give 
way to any expression of grief, any expression of feeling. 
Like a wicked spider frightened from its web he scurried 
into a corner and remained crouched there ; to all appearance 



282 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

dead as a doornail for those who cast only a passing glance 
in his direction, until a second look saw with terror the watch- 
ful living eyes with the lust of prey in them of this monster 
in ambush, a monster which was old to the point of death, 
but from whom threads ran out over all the world. In this 
connection we may remember what Ro. said, an assertion 
backed up by other reliable witnesses, that Zaharoff had been 
induced to buy up Monte Carlo not only for a gamble, not 
only through greed of gain, not only because of that royal 
dream of his, but because something very different had also 
given the final urge to that course. 

Before he made up his mind to sign that cheque for a million 
pounds, he asked — so Ro. says — a couple of days to think it 
over ; he consulted people who knew all about gambling 
and expert mathematicians — Ro. himself seems to have been 
one of them — and had scientific memoranda prepared on the 
gambling trade. These memoranda were very favourable — 
from the point of view of the holder of the bank. In spite of 
that, Zaharoff still remained undecided until he was told that 
in the archives of that bank there was the biggest "Who's 
Who" in the world, with exhaustive information regarding 
the past, present, fortune, and connections of every one of 
any importance whatever who ever had entered the territory 
of Monaco. All that had been collected with the aid of a 
particularly efficient information service, and special attention 
had been given to the rooting out of private and intimate 
details. Whenever he heard that, his mind was made up. 
It was only then that he put the cheque on the table. 

We could not accept without more ado such penny-novel 
evidence were it not for the fact that we can control by results 
this capture of the Monte Carlo information service. It is 
certain that the gentleman with the imperial, driven from 
active life, confined to an armchair, poised between mortal 
illness and the report of his death, did undertake yet another 
incursion into the world of living men. Suddenly the news 



THE PRIVATE LIFE OF AN OLD GENTLEMAN 283 

was bruited abroad in Europe that the greybeard had captured 
these secret archives and intended to use the material in them 
to write his memoirs. In certain circles the effect was sensa- 
tional, and ran the whole gamut through from indignation 
and menace to expressions of sheer panic. What did this old 
fellow know whose lips it was hoped were sealed for ever, 
and of whose death people had read in the Press with mixed 
feelings ? Whom now would he strip bare, whose reputation 
would he explode and ruin, whom would he hurl to the abyss ? 
Intervention — that was no good. The old man wrote, went 
on writing. Then there came this news which appeared in 
small type in the Paris newspapers under the heading "News 
from all quarters" : 

Fire in a room in the Avenue Hoche. In 5 3 Avenue Hoche 
a fire broke out yesterday evening which the fire brigade got 
under control within half an hour. The valuable furniture was 
seriously damaged by fire and by water. The cause of the fire 
was ascertained ; owner of the house without taking precaution 
had been burning a great mass of papers in the fireplace. 

And two days later the Paris papers had more information to 
give. The burned papers were the memoirs of Mr. Basil 
Zaharoff. On the morning of the fire a servant got hold of 
them and then bolted ; a servant who, it is alleged, had been 
in the house for years and was perhaps the same servant 
who, in the year 19 13, had sold to Mr. Haim Menelewitsch 
Sahar the secret telephone number of his master. The fugitive 
was arrested the same evening in the Bois de Boulogne, 
when he was negotiating with an unknown man, who succeeded 
in getting away, for the sale of the packet of manuscript. 
The packet was handed back to the owner. Shortly afterwards 
the room caught fire. When a big Paris paper offered a thousand 
pounds for each written page of the memoirs, there was no 
response. 

So this cup, too, passed from the great ones of this earth. 
Mr. Basil Zaharoff kept silence. He returned to his old taci- 



284 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

turnity. He still sat like a spider in his dark corner and what 
happened to those thousand threads that linked him to all 
the world, those which hung broken and rent and those which 
still hang elastic and dangerous, the observer cannot see in 
this darkening twilight. How did the old man live now, 
how did the days go by ? 

Yes, how did the days go by ? There he lay, called Basil 
Zaharoff or Sohar or Zahar, but all that is as good as forgotten. 
He lies in a soft, broad, ornamented gilded bed which — he 
hates. It was acquired at the cost of much good money from 
an antique dealer, one of these dealers to be deceived by whom 
is considered by society to be good form. This bed, which 
once belonged to a harlot of Louis the such-and-such of 
France, dearer than fifteen of those solid brass-mounted beds 
which he likes, almost as dear as an anit-aircraft gun, the bed 
which produces hundreds of sleepless nights. Ah, those beds 
in his young days, those thousand royal sleeping places in 
the East, sacks of straw which, Good God, were really alive, 
and on top of them a rough, solid, masculine-smelling sheep- 
skin. But that is all past. And now he lies sleepless in this 
accursed bed of a dead harlot, and knows himself to be Basil 
Zaharoff, G.C.B., Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, and 
once again has to lift his heavy lids on which the veins stand 
out from those dull, hard, flinty, colourless seafarer's eyes of 
his. His day begins. What o'clock is it ? Nine. Now the second 
servant should have been in the room already with the morning 
tea, but he has sacked him. He has sacked many of these 
domestic pests in the last year. Let them strip others bare ; 
he, Mr. Basil Zaharoff, is cutting down expenses. For he 
sleeps in a golden bed and keeps in the drawer over there a 
couple of his treasured cheque books, those wonder books 
in which one has only to write one's name and good, real 
gold comes forth, rattling ; but still, somewhere in the corner, 
the misery of his childhood reappears, and sometimes at night, 



THE PRIVATE LIFE OF AN OLD GENTLEMAN Z85 

in spite of gold and cheque books, poverty and despair stand 
like ghosts behind him and gibber over his shoulder. 

But it is time to get up. He rings for the servant whom he 
has kept and who has grown grey in his service. How many 
old and young has he outlived 1 No, his help in dressing is 
not necessary; let him sit over there on the footstool by the 
window and read out the newspapers. And meantime, with 
those slightly crooked fingers of his, stained by the smoking 
now forbidden him — may the devil take all doctors ! — the 
fingers of an old man, the fingers of a money-changer, through 
which the bones show, the bones of that skeleton of his 
which has been his life-long companion — with these fingers 
he takes the clothes from a chair while the servant reads. 
What is he reading ? Two new non-aggression pacts, a naval 
convention, disarmament conferences in Geneva 1 Ah, if 
he had not rheumatism in every limt) — it is only a touch of 
rheumatism and, if the doctor says it is something else, the 
devil take him — if he had not this rheumatism, he laughs, a 
piece would be off the board. 

It took some trouble, but at last he is dressed. The secretary 
is summoned. What does he bring ? Eleven letters. Eight of 
them from Greece. The old friends over there want money 
directly or indirectly. They, at least, haven't forgotten him. 
Now what shall he do this yawning empty day which lies 
before him, with what activity shall he occupy himself ? If he 
was in Paris he would go in one of his three cars — one would 
suffice, but the prices they give for second-hand cars are 
scandalous — he would go to the Bois and stop in the Avenue 
des Acacias where the secretary would earn his salary by 
reading him something for an hour or so, newspapers, books 
— Don Quixote, which he can repeat from memory, just as 
well as in the good old days he could repeat the price list of 
an armament factory, but a magic spell binds him eternally 
to this fool who, for the sake of a Spanish Dulcinea, tilted 
with windmills — until he was ready again for another small 



286 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

and dainty meal. But here he is not in Paris ; here he can fare 
better, for here he has the private park of his chateau. The 
bath chair is pushed up to the foot of the short flight of steps 
which lead from his bedroom to the sandy courtyard, and 
which he descends unaided, just feeling his way a little for 
the steps with his stick. There it is, the little carriage driven 
by electricity and running on rubber tyres — with steel springs 
from Sheffield — and thus he loves to drive along the private 
paths of his park, going quietly round a fence so that a gardener 
fellow leaps up as if a ghost had appeared. At the park pond 
he will perhaps climb cautiously and with imprecations 
into the boat which the servant has to row, gliding sound- 
lessly over the silent green of the pond beneath hanging boughs 
over the sluggish water. 

Is it dinner time already ? He eats alone as he does every day, 
he dresses for dinner every day. A skeleton with dazzling 
white shirt-front ; so he sits in front of glasses, plates, and 
shining metal cutlery — steel knives from Sheffield ! — alone 
at a corner of a long, empty table which has seen thousands 
of guests and gold plate and dishes, until these guests had 
passed, dead and blown to the four winds of heaven, and the 
gold plate had been changed into coin of France to be spent 
by a great patriot and friend of mankind. Did someone laugh ? 
There is no one in the empty room beside himself. Not 
that this in any way spoils his appetite. He filched his chef 
from the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo. He is almost a master 
cook himself. He is finicky, but fond of his food ; his appetite 
is excellent. What a pity the meal is over I Go to sleep ? 
Don't speak to him of going to sleep on the luxurious bed of 
that French harlot whose name, thank Heaven, he has forgotten. 
No, he goes for a little to his study. He sits down at his desk 
and sits motionless. Read ? He has always had a wholesome 
mistrust of the written word. If one needs something written 
for war and peace then one buys it. But he does not read. He 
sits there in his loneliness and looks at the polished surface 



THE PRIVATE LIFE OF AN OLD GENTLEMAN 287 

of the desk, the desk on which so much paper- has passed, 
generations of paper. Orders for munitions, letters from 
ministers and beggars, spies' reports, accounts, the dumb cry 
of hundreds of thousands of begging, questioning, threatening, 
beseeching, coaxing, cursing letters which have now all 
fluttered away and are lost in the past. All that remains is the 
flat surface of the desk, dumb, shining, polished wood. And on 
it the picture of a woman who is dead. 

Is there nothing else which has kept its place on this emptied 
desk which is thronged by unseen millions, kept it even until 
this present loneliness of his ? Oh yes, there is. The models. 
Made of gold with millimeter exactness, a costly toy, there 
the machine-gun stands, the famous Maxim gun, only an inch 
or two long. Then there a howitzer raises its golden muzzle, 
graceful and threatening. And that coastal defence gun, 
thin as the ankle of a girl not grown to womanhood and 
shimmering golden like a woman's hair, the gun which 
increased a thousandfold thundered at the Dardanelles. But 
that one, that last one on the right, half-hidden behind the 
picture of the woman whom he had had to return to the dust 
from whence she came, that last little model — yesterday, just 
at this hour he had put a meadow-flower with his gambler's 
fingers in its graceful yawning muzzle and now it is faded — 
now he recognizes it. The flamethrower of Ypres 1 the flame- 
thrower of Ypres glittering there in gold with millimeter 
exactness, stands on the desk of Mr. Basil Zaharoff. 

Mr. Basil Zaharoff now takes the telescope from the middle 
drawer of the desk where it lies ready, and, as he does every 
evening, gazes through the open window to those distances 
which now only his eyes can reach. Then the old servant, 
crouching on a chair on the floor near the door is many a 
time roused from semi-slumber as the old man in the darkened 
room walks from fireplace to window, up and down, to and 
fro, till long into the night, just tapping a little in front of him 
with his stick. He does not go to bed, to the bed of the French 



288 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

harlot over which that antique dealer swindled him, before 
the first cock crows and he is reeling with weariness. For he 
does not sleep. When one is dead one will sleep well enough. 

But we will not let him die yet. As we have given ourselves 
such trouble to sift the false from the true, this book would be 
incomplete if we did not ask ourselves the strange question : 
What lies were told about this man ? Here is matter to fill 
another book. Yet read these lines from an article by the 
French journalist Felicien Champsaur : 

At the age of eighteen Mr. Zaharoff went off with his 
father's money-box and thereby at one stroke ruined his whole 
family. Various adventures in Greece got him a term in gaol. 
He then bobbed up in England and once again got a heavy 
sentence. After finishing his term, he went off to the United 
States and got a job as a car attendant with the Pullman 
Company. By his intelligence and diligence he pleased his 
employers so much that Pullman gave him a post of trust. 
Before he accepted, Zaharoff asked Pullman to be allowed to 
tell him his past without glossing over anything. This confes- 
sion, as bold as it was clever, made a big impression on 
Pullman, and he sent him off to London as his agent to 
Vickers-Maxim. 

That is relatively accurate compared with the sensational 
"revelations" which another journalist made : 

As to authenticity of detail it may be said that because of 
the writer's intimate knowledge of Zaharoff and the man's 
secret activities he was forced to flee Europe. 

So says the publisher of the book. In it you may learn that 
Scotland Yard had hatched a plot with Mr. Haim Manele- 
witsch Sahar, the ever-appearing son, to collar the death 
duties on Zaharoff's fortune for Britain, that Zaharoff when he 
was a Russo-Jewish soldier had been a bandit in Siberia — 
"and everyone knows about the bandits of Siberia and their 



THE PRIVATE LIFE OF AN OLD GENTLEMAN 289 

incredible wickedness" — and there laid the foundations of 
his fortune. None the less, the writer leaves his anxious 
readers the choice between this story and another. According 
to the second tale, ZaharofF was no Russo-Jewish-Siberian 
bandit, but was in his younger days a bishop I In the 'eighties 
he was living as Orthodox Bishop Antonius in the Czar's 
court as the favourite of the Czarina. When the latter in her 
passion for jewellery cast covetous eyes on the holy jewels in 
his reliquary, the pious priest gave her not them but imitations ; 
the trick was discovered ; he had to flee, got to Constantinople, 
took the name of Zaharoff, and became a dealer in armaments. 

But no more of that. Other stories are more harmless. That 
he was a carpet dealer in Sofia who suddenly began to sell 
munitions, that he presented France with a hundred million 
francs to support her currency, that he contrived in order to 
get rich to stir up a war in Tierra del Fuego, that he in 
the autumn of 1921 financed the attempt of the late Austrian 
Emperor Karl to win the throne of Hungary. 

At this let us pause for a moment. The allegation that 
Zaharoff financed the Karl putsch appears in so many sources 
that it is worth taking some trouble to refute it. As is known, 
the dethroned Emperor went to Switzerland and from there 
pursued actively a restoration policy. That policy was cautiously 
encouraged by Aristide Briand, who once before had used 
Mr. Zaharoff as intermediary on the occasion of those thorny 
affairs in Greece which could not be touched officially. He was 
once again entrusted with the prosecution of the business. 
Bu there, let us say at once, the story breaks down. I quote 
from a letter to me by the secretary of the late emperor, Baron 
von Werkmann : 

I can tell you quite categorically that there is not the least 
truth in the report. There never were relations of any kind 
between His Majesty and Sir Basil Zaharoff. The late Emperor 
knew of Sir Basil's existence only from the newspapers — no 
more. If a millionaire like Sir Basil Zaharoff had really financed 



290 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

the Habsburg movement, it would have got on better, pre- 
suming, that is, that it would have accepted money from a man 
of his stamp. By the phrase, "man of his stamp," I do not 
mean to insult Sir Basil, but merely to indicate that he was 
completely apart from Austro-Hungarian affairs and interests. 

In short, the story has broken down, and it cannot be put 
together again. As a last resort we asked Ro., who has moved a 
lot in court circles. The answer is given here not only because 
it makes public a jolly little incident, but also because it shows 
how history is made. 

Actually, so Ro. reports, there never was any arrangement 
between the Emperor Karl and Zaharoff. But the report 
obstinately persisted that Sir Basil had put at the emperor's 
disposal six hundred thousand, and then another million 
Swiss francs. The truth at the back of the story is this : In 
1920, when the Emperor sold his jewels and the proceeds 
disappeared into strange hands and when the budget of the 
Imperial household had to be greatly curtailed as a result, a 
Hungarian lady of the aristocracy devised a daring scheme, 
and for its carrying out collected half a million francs from 
the nobility of the old Monarchy. Two former officers of the 
Austrian cavalry had come to her, and had told her that they 
had found an absolutely sure system, with the help of which 
it would be possible to win some millions from the bank of 
Monte Carlo. The system was a very complicated one, depend- 
ing on the variation of the odds against winning, and of its 
success anyone not thoroughly familiar with the play at Monte 
Carlo could have been convinced without much difficulty. 
In the autumn of 1921 the war of the Austrian legitimists 
on the bank of Monte Carlo broke out. To work the system 
four persons were needed. They communicated only by signs 
and went to work with such an elaboration of mystery that 
for a time they were able to escape the eyes of the surveillance 
exercised by the casino company. The thing first came out after 
the syndicate had shot away all its shells in this game for an 



THE PRIVATE LIFE OF AN OLD GENTLEMAN 29I 

Imperial crown. The struggle was fierce but short. They 
won ; they lost. After four weeks they had laid down the last 
franc and the four romantic dreamers of a royal restoration 
disappeared, never to be seen again. 

All that had been done without the knowledge of the 
Emperor Karl — so Ro. goes on — and it would never have 
come out had not those who supplied the money suspected 
the four gamblers of not having played the game and of 
simply having gone off with the loot. So there was nothing 
for it but for the lady who had conceived the scheme to tell 
the whole story to the Emperor. He took her under his 
protection. He wanted, although he himself was in need, to 
make the losses good. That was refused. So the whole incident 
ended in chivalry and tears, and an oath of silence was imposed 
on all those who had played any part in it. But that Basil 
Zaharoff was brought into any connection at all with the 
business was simply due to the fact that the four mystery 
gamblers were seen in Monte Carlo. That they really thought 
of planning their campaign through the bank instead of 
in conversation with its owner — no one could think that. 

A few weeks later the Emperor flew to Hungary — and to 
his destruction. 

So here really and truly is a story without Zaharoff. Here 
we have destroyed a legend. He wasn't there ; he was not a 
fellow conspirator. Ah, he is getting old, this unflinching 
conspirator ; in the course of our investigations he has become 
really very old. Lewinsohn writes somewhere : 

The palace of Zaharoff in Paris stands empty. The policeman 
still paces inconspicuously past it. Now and again a passer-by 
or two stops and looks at it. 

This policeman, the policeman who paced past it, I inter- 
viewed. I went to the Avenue Hoche. I did actually find 
outside No. 53a policeman posted, a fine-looking fellow with 
a carefully trimmed black beard, and I got into conversation 

K* 



292 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

with him. Oh, yes, he was stationed here ; he had been a couple 
of years on the job. He was communicative ; he even touched 
lightly on politics. Then I said : Which actually is M.Zaharoff's 
house ?" He (very surprised) : "M. Zaharoff ?" I : "Zaharoff." 
He : "I don't know him ; never heard the name." 

Actually he knew nothing, nothing at all of the old man. 
The last trace of a meteor through the noisy streets of Paris, 
"M. Zaharoff." Then, too, when for the first time I got on 
to his track in the Tout Paris of 189 1, he was a "M. Zaharoff, 
possessor of foreign orders." Between then and now that 
name Zaharoff, rightly spelled and rightly pronounced, was 
not unknown in this street. Between that not yet and this no 
more there lay a life. 

I went up to the house. The door was locked and the shutters 
on the windows closed. 

Let us leave them closed, these shutters. Closed for ever. 
What a life is there unfolded before our eyes. What a wealth of 
colour and wild adventure. What an excess of carefully planned 
acquisitiveness, brutal craft, passionate heartlessness and 
heartless passion. An exuberant, intoxicating, kingly life 
drained to the dregs, if it were permissible to apply such 
aesthetic standards to it. But is it permissible to allow oneself 
to be prevented by the super-dimension of his success from 
calling by its true name his super-dimensional crime ? A 
criminal then ? Nay, that too, is only a half-truth. Perhaps he is 
as splendidly innocent, as terribly innocent as is any beast who 
preys on others and then is, in its turn, the prey of other beasts. 
There lives in England one of the least prejudiced of men alive 
to-day, H. G. Wells, and this is what he writes in his book 
The Work, Wealth, and Happiness of Mankind, about Basil 
Zaharoff : 

Indisputably this man has spent a large part of his life in 
the equipment and promotion of human slaughter. And it 
is unjust and absurd to blame him for doing so. It is so cheap 



THE PRIVATE LIFE OF AN OLD GENTLEMAN 293 

and easy for the sentimental pacifists to be indignant about 
him, but all of us are involved in the complex of processes 
that carried him to wealth and all of us have a share in his 
responsibility. Circumstances beyond his control built up his 
ideology. He has simply been modest enough not to question 
the standards of the world about him but to observe them 
faithfully and intelligently. It is plain that he had always 
accepted the making of money as a justification for his opera- 
tions. Monetary success ought to be the indication of social 
service. If it is not, the fault is primarily with the political 
and business system and only secondarily with the individuals 
who make money. The organization of killing is inherent in 
our accepted ideology. The picture of an Anatolian Greek, 
overwhelmed by his riches, adorned with the highest honours 
France, Britain, and Oxford can bestow, and amusing himself 
by running a gambling palace in his declining years, displayed 
against a background of innumerable millions of men maimed, 
tortured, scalded, mutilated, and killed, may be an effective 
indictment of our political traditions, but in no sense is it 
a personal condemnation. Millions of his contemporaries would 
have played the same game had they thought of it and known 
how. There was nothing in their personas to prevent it. If 
anything is wrong it is in the educational influences and in 
the political, economic, and financial opportunities that evoked 
those personas. 

In the same year as that book was written the Vickers company 

assembled its shareholders But of that latest general 

meeting of the Vickers company, let us hear from an eye-witness. 

The annual general meeting which, as usual, was held on 
Easter Monday was an exciting one. I confess I went to it 
because a look I had had previously at the list of shareholders 
made me hope that Dean Inge would be there. He could have 
represented about five hundred clergymen of the Church of 
England who hold armament shares. I had hoped that the 
Clergy Pensions Fund would also be represented, for its share- 
holding is ten times as big as that of the chairman. However, 



294 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

the paid officials of the Prince of Peace, if they did not signalize 
themselves by their absence, did so by their silence. 

I was a little late in arriving. When I entered the hall Sir 
Herbert Lawrence was just remarking with evident pleasure 
that "the orders for land armaments have increased in a com- 
forting manner. It is not easy," he continued, "to understand 
the prejudice that exists in a small section of the public against 
the so-called armament firms, which are just as much a part 
of the defensive system of these islands as are the forts that 
defend our harbours." 

But the real excitement began when the chairman asked if 
anyone wanted to ask any questions. At once Miss Eleanor 
Rathbone, m.p., got up with a copy of a German paper in 
her hand in which she said Vickers were advertising their 
tanks. "Of course," answered Sir Herbert Lawrence, "that 
is not meant for Germany but for our old and tried friends 
in South America." "But," said Miss Rathbone in amazement, 
"I have here a letter from the publisher of the paper in which 
it is said that their circulation outside Germany amounts 
scarcely to 800 copies. Is the chairman in a position to assure 
us that Vickers neither directly or indirectly is helping in the 
rearmament of Germany ?" There was a short pause, and then 
Sir Herbert replied, "I cannot give any definite assurance of 
such a kind." And amid the applause of the shareholders he 
passed quickly to another point. 

In the relative quiet which succeeded someone moved that a 
vote of thanks to the directors be passed. In the discussion on 
that motion a shareholder, who had so far in vain tried to 
speak, now got a chance. He said he was surprised to hear 
from the speech of the chairman that Vickers had no influence 
either direct or indirect on any newspaper, British or foreign. 
He named Mr. Bryce, who combined the duties of The Times 
correspondent in Belgrade with that of Vickers' agent there. In 
Bucarest he said The Times had appointed as their correspon- 
dent a Mr. Boncesco, who had no journalistic experience what- 
soever. He too was similarly an agent of Vickers. When Herr 
Boncesco lost this latter post, he also lost his job with The Times. 

"But this mysterious combination of a great newspaper with 



THE PRIVATE LIFE OF AN OLD GENTLEMAN 295 

Vickers," the shareholder proceeded, "does not end there. 
When Mr. Boncesco retired the post of The Times correspondent 
was filled by another young man from the Vickers offices who, 

too, had no journalistic experience. In Prague " The rest 

of his story was drowned by the noise made by the share- 
holders ; it was a very successful meeting. 

It remains for the biographer to report that on August 12, 
1933, the Bucarest newspapers printed the report that Sir 
Basil Zaharoff was dangerously ill and was on his death-bed. 

The news that Sir Basil had died came from London on 
September 16. 

That was the day when I met that Greek ex-premier whom I 
call D. 

1. Did you hear that Zaharoff died to-day ? 
he. I read it but I don't believe it. 

1. Why ? Have you had different news ? 
he. I haven't had any news at all. But I've known him too 
long. Every year for ten years he puts in the papers that 
he is dead — only in order not to die. 

1. But 

he. No, you needn't smile. I'm not joking. Monsieur Zaharoff 
doesn't die. 

Next morning the news of the death of the old man was 
denied in a message from Paris ; he still breathed. 

And then once again there came word from London and 
informed us that once again there had been a resurrection : 

To-day Sir Basil felt as well as ever and went for a ride in 
his electric bath-chair in his park at his beautiful country seat, 
Chateau Balincourt. 

Thus he still lived, as the Greek ex-premier had foreseen. 
We have now only one more report to give before the last. 
It comes from America. When Basil Zaharoff in this way once 
again preferred life, when he died and didn't die, when he felt 
so suddenly well and alive again that he rolled through his 



296 ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

park on his rubber-tyred carriage — steel springs from Sheffield 1 
■ — an American newspaper resolved to get to the bottom of 
the mystery, and sent out a special correspondent. He, however, 
reported that Sir Basil was neither sick nor well. For for long 
Sir Basil had been dead and gathered to his fathers. Another 
was going on playing his part in life, a plot of the dark forces 
who were once again at work to maintain that spider's net 
which falls to the ground when the insect in the middle of it 
falls. 

The sensational yarn of a journalist ? A lie ? No doubt. 

The true report came from Monte Carlo on November 
27, 1936. He died, so it was reported, in the arms of his valet 
at 9 o'clock in the morning in his suite in the Hotel de Paris. 
Madame de Bourbon, so ran the account, was in the neigh- 
bouring room. She was called but found him already dead. The 
body was taken to the Chateaux Balincourt and buried beside 
the woman whom he had loved throughout a lifetime. Only his 
secretary, daughters and son-in-law were present at the funeral. 
Nobody else. When Haim Manelewitsch Sahar, the eternal 
son, arrived in France from London, he came too late. Nobody 
had paid any attention to that identity mark, "shaped like two 
bean pods," on which he based his claim to be ZaharofFs son ; 
nobody wanted to know anything about it, nobody had seen 
anything. The body was already buried. Zaharoff had in 
fact — yes, now it came out — died two days earlier than the 
world, and with it Mr. Haim Manelewitsch Sahar, had been 
told. He had been robbed of his proof. 

The newspaper accounts after the old man's death, 
obituaries, personal recollections, contained some fantastic 
stories, some ingenuous, some wildly imagined, but nothing 
new. Barring one small report in the London Daily Telegraph, 
which must not be concealed from the reader of this book. 
In answer to a question as to his origin — so wrote an acquaint- 
ance of the dead man — the old man answered him : "I am a 
Rugby boy." Following Mughla, Tatavla, Wilkomir and 



THE PRIVATE LIFE OF AN OLD GENTLEMAN 297 

Phanar this is thus the fifth and last version. At the end it was 
only suitable for the great vieillard to have been educated in 
one of the most expensive English public schools. Death 
prevented him attaining the full seven versions of his master, 
Homer. 

There remained the will ; there remained the money. The 
old man's fortune had at one time been estimated at as high 
as one hundred million pounds sterling. When he died one 
guessed it as twenty millions. Two days later as ten. Five 
days after his death as four. When his will was at last unsealed 
there were present, apart from the statutory official, only his 
secretary, his two daughters and his son-in-law. As had been 
expected, the two daughters were the sole heiresses, the sum — 
such was the account given to the papers — was one million. 

So the old man remained secretive to his death. Only that 
he is really dead is this time confirmed officially in a death 
certificate issued by the Mairie de Balincourt. 

But after so many documents we are sceptical of this 
document also. For the ZaharofFs are immortal. 



SOURCES 

In addition to the original documents, letters, and statements 
by witness reproduced for the first time in this book, the 
following have been used : 

i. Proceedings of the German Reichstag, Berlin; Parlia- 
mentary Records, House of Commons, London ; Official 
Journal : Debates in the Chamber of Deputies, Paris. 

2. The publications containing official Russian diplomatic 

documents, 1914-1918 ; documents from the Ministry 
of War, Vienna ; the Register of the Old Bailey, London. 

3. The following newspapers and reviews: Activite franfaise 

et itranghe, Crapouillot, Daily Herald, Daily Mail, Docu- 
ments politiques, Echo National, Eclair eur du Soir, Excelsior, 
Echo de Paris, Frankfurter Zeitung, Homme libre, Humanite, 
Information, Japan Weekly Chronicle, Die Kommunistische 
International, Krasnaja Ga^eta, Koelnische Zeitung, New 
Leader, Lumiere, Matin, Neue Freie Presse, Neues Wiener 
Tagblatt, Neues Wiener Journal, Petit Bleu, Sketch, Sunday 
Express, Temps, The Times, Tribune de Paris, Weekly 
Dispatch ; 

and also messages of the Agence d'Athenes, the Agence 
Radio, the Agence Sans-Fil, Reuter, and Wolff. 

4. The following books and pamphlets : 

H. C. Armstrong : The Grey Wolf. 

Dartiges de Fournet : Memoires d'un Amiral. 

Vincent H. P. Caillard : Report on the Revenues ceded 

by Turkey to the bondholders of the Ottoman Public 

Debt. 
Lady Caillard : Sir Vincent Caillard speaks from the 

Spirit World. 
Casanova : Memoirs. 
Felicien Champsaur : L'Hurluberlu. 
Egon, Conte Corti : Die Familie Blanc. 



300 2AHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 

Ludwell Denny : We Fight for Oil. 

Louis Fischer : Oil Imperialism. 

Jean Galtier-Boissiere et Rene Lefebvre : Les Marchands 

de Canons. 
Lloyd George : War Memoirs. 
G. Glasgow : Life of Venizelos. 
Karl Hoffman : Oelpolitik und angelsaechischer Imperial- 

ismus. 
Richard Lewinsohn : Der Mann im Dunkel. 
Emil Ludwig : Schliemann. 
Emil Ludwig : Versailles. 
Otto Lehmann-Russbueldt : Die blutige Internationale der 

Ruestungsindustrie. 
Compton Mackenzie : Athenian Memories. 
John Mavrogordato : Modern Greece. 
H. S. Maxim : My Life. 
Roger Menevee : Sir Basil Zaharoff, l'Homme mysterieux 

de l'Europe. 
Scott Nearing : Oil and the Germs of War. 
Robert Neumann : Die Macht. 

Robert Neumann : Jagd auf Menschen und Gespenster. 
G. A. Perris : The War Traders. 
Karl v. Rotteck : Weltgeschichte. 

Venizelos, etc. : The Vindication of Greek National Policy. 
H. G. Wells : Outline of History. 
H. G. Wells : Work, Wealth, and Happiness of Mankind. 
Anon. : Hinter den Kulissen des franzoesischen Journ- 

alismus. 
Anon. : The Secret International (Published by the 

Union of Democratic Control, London). 



INDEX 



Abdul Hamid 196, 242 

Agence Radio 167, 175 

Albert of Monaco 270 sq. 

Alexander III of Russia 81 

Algeria, oil in 208, 210 

American Electric Boat Com- 
pany 84 

Anglo-Persian Oil Company 
196, 256, 261 

Antoniades, ZaharofFs uncle 
24, 56 sq., 65 

Arabia 198, 212 

d'Arcy, W. K. 195 

Argentina 103 sq. 

Armenia 195, 263 

Armstrong, Whitworth Com- 
pany 107, 122, 133, 293 

Athens, Zaharoff in 44, 67 

Atkinson, H. T. 61, 63 

Austria 81 

d'Avricourt, Baron Balny 271 



Bagdad 1 96 

"Balzac Prize" 237 

Bank of France 203 

Banque commerciale de la Medi- 

terranee 221, 246 
Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas 

224, 248 
Banque de la Seine 205, 208, 

221, 224 
Banque de 1' Union Parisienne 

123, 203, 241, 248 



Banque d'Outre-Mer 138 

Banque Thalmann 205, 221 

Barker, Francis 147, 149, 205 

Beardmore Company 136 

Bea verb rook, Lord 238 

Bedford, A. W. 223 

Berenger, Henry 205 

Berlin, treaty of 81 

Berna Milk Company 211 

Bertie, Lord 178 

Blanc family of Monte Carlo 
269 sq. 

Blohm & Voss Company 133 

Bolivia 103 

Bon, Jean 202 

Bonzon, quoted 18-20 

Bosporous Docks Company 141, 
222, 245 sq. 

Briand, Aristide 170, 173 

Britain — 

policy in 1878 81 
post-war policy 200 sq. 

Brown, John, Company 133 

Bulgaria 81, 177 

Bunau-Varilla 106 



Caillard, Sir V. 124, 138, 141, 

221 
Cardashian, Y. 263 
Casanova 48 sq., 64, 66 
Ch., quoted 45,49,64,66,217, 

246, 288 
Chaco 104 



302 



ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 



Chamberlain, Sir A. 164, 218 
Champsaur, F., quoted 288 
Chester, Rear- Admiral 195 sq., 

242 
Chile 103 

Chinese Eastern Railway 224 
Clemenceau, Georges 206, 211, 

228, 272 



Clemenceau, Michel 113, 207 
Constantine, King of Greece 

69, 171, 173, 177, 230, 239 
Constantinople. Zaharoffin 16, 

19, 21, 26 
Crapouillot, quoted 139,169,252 
Curzon, Lord 242, 246, 274 



D., quoted 11, 64, 69, 96, 170, 

217 
Daily Express 238, 245 
Daily Mail 42, 238 
Daniel, Orthodox priest 1 3 
Dardanelles campaign 165, 197 
Davenport, quoted 107, 177 
Davidoff 139 
Demidoff 172 
Deterding, Sir H. 199, 201 
Deutsche Bank 138, 196 
Disconto Bank 138 
Druses 214, 220, 261 



E., quoted 232 
Echo de Paris 147 
Erzberger, Matthias 125 
Excelsior 129, 147, 149 



Faure, Paul 146 
Feisal, King 242, 220, 239 
Fisher, Lord 199 
France — 

and Russian armaments I28sq. 

and post-war oil policy 199 sq. 
Fuji, Rear-Admiral 105,107,112 

G., quoted 12, 84 
Garbola prison 11, 72 
Gaudin de Vilaine, Senator 

164, 273 
Genoa, Duke of 87 
George, Lloyd 163, 197, 211, 

214, 233 sq., 238 sq. 
Georgius, patriarch 19 
Germany — 

and Russian armament 123, 
125, 141, 143 

and Turkish oil 196 sq. 

post-war 213 sq. 

Ruhr war 247 sq. 
Gontard, Paul 123, 125 
Great War 11, 161 sq. 
Greece 1 7 

Zaharoff and 81, 82 

Turkish war 216, 222, 230 
Guinness, Walter, M.P. 235 



H., quoted 28, 45, 49, 64 
Herbert, Aubrey, M.P. 217 sq. 
Hertz, Cornelius 235 
Hiphentides, M. 60, 62, 64 
Hitler 250 
Hoffmann, Karl 204, 213, 224, 

247 
Huguet, W. 129 
Hussein of Mecca 199 



INDEX 



3°3 



Information, quoted 144 

Inge, Dean 293 

Internationale Biographiscbe Archiv., 

quoted 68, 77, 103, 260 
Iphestidi 24, 62 
Irak 239 
Italy 122, 262 



japan Weekly Chronicle, quoted 

107 
Johnson, Albin E. 220 
Jouvenel, Henry de 233, 262 
Judand, Battle of 167 



sq. 



7 2 , 



K., dancer 95 
K., Maj-Gen., quoted 88 
K., General 97 
Kaisaroff, quoted 250 
Karl, ex-Emperor 289 sq. 
Karolinski, Haje 33, 43, 

209 
Kemal Pasha 222, 231, 239 
Kischineff 20, 40 
Koelnische Zeitung, quoted 143 
Kokovtzev 128 
Kovno 34 

Krasnaya Ga^eta, quoted 250 
Krupps 122, 133, 136, 142, 

152, 165, 168 
Kuhn Loeb firm 247 
Kurds 196, 258, 259 
Kut-el-Amara 1 97 



La Lumicre, quoted 2 
Lampsas 18, 77 
Lausanne conferences 



244, 258 



Law, Bonar 218 
Lawrence, Colonel 198 
Le Creusot v. Schneider 
Lehmann-Russbueldt, quoted 

154, 260 
Leipzig, armament-makers' trials 

at 167 
"Le Nickel" Company 154, 

165, 166, 209 
Lewinsohn, R., quoted 17, 23, 

24, 5i, 5 9» J 7 6 , 2 54, 279 
Liebknecht, Karl 125 
Ludwig, Emil, quoted 181 sq. 
Ludwig Loewe Company 123, 

155 



Mackenzie, Compton, quoted 

69, 172 
Macmahon treaty 198, 212, 214 
Marie, Queen, of Roumania 

Matin, quoted 130, 252, 257, 

276 
Mavrogordato bank 205, 221 
Maxim, Sir H. S. 85 sq., 89, 

91, 92, 114 
Maxim Nordenfeldt Company 

93, 113 
Mayer freres 203 
Menevee, Roger, quoted 9, 17, 

7 1 , 77. H5, 154, 207, 210 
Mikra Ephemeris, quoted n, 

49» 7 2 , 74 
Mitsui Company 105, 107 
Monaco 269 sq. 
Morgan, J. P., firm 248 
Mosul 196, 197, 200 sq., 211 sq., 

241 sq., 258 sq. 



3°4 



ZAHAROFF : THE 



Moughliou (Mughla) 13,21,42 
Murray, Lord 208 



National Industries 121 sq., 

206 

Nearing, Scott, quoted 229 

Negropontis, Mme. S. 73 
Nikolaieff 136, 141 
Nordenfeldt, T. V. 83, 100 

Nordenfeldt Company 76, 85, 

93 
Normand, Augustin, firm 133, 

135 



O., quoted 13 

O'Connor, T. P. 219, 265 

Odessa 2 1 

Old Bailey trial 60 sq. 

Ossietzky, Cad von 250 

Ostrorog, Count L. 209,210,221 

Otschakoff 20 



P., quoted 12, 42, 279 

P., Baroness, quoted 12, 50, 

131, 169, 273 
Panama 104 sq. 
Pan- Arab movement 198 
Paraguay 103 sq. 
Pearson, S., & Company 208 
Perris, G. A., quoted 109, 160 
Persia 195 

Petit Parisien 130,227 
Phanar 16, 19, 22 
Pietri, Nicolas 205, 208, 221 
Pintsch firm 250 
Pissard, Leon 205, 208, 221 



ARMAMENTS KING 

Plevna 81 

Poincare, R. 208, 211 

Ponsonby, Lord 164 

Possehl 166 

Putilofffirm 135, 136, 138, 167 



Quotidiens Illustres 128,147 



Raffalowitsch, A. 159,151 

Reval 1 3 5 

Ro., quoted 12, 18, 24, 55, 68, 
69, 103, 105, 112, 260, 275, 
290 

Rockefeller v. Standard Oil 

Romanos 193 

Roosevelt, T. 106 

Roumania 2 5 3 

Royal Dutch Shell Company 
198, 226, 257, 261 

Rubinstein, D. 134 

Ruhr war 278 

Russia — 

in Great War 134 
war of 1878 81 sq., 84 
war with Japan 1 z 1 , 131 
ZaharofF's activities in 95 sq., 
131 sq. 

Russo-Asiatic Bank 225 



S., Grand Duke 95 
S. de, quoted 104 sq. 
Sahar 17 sq. 

Haim v. Zaharoff, H. B. 

Manel 32 
Sainsere, O. 208, 211 



INDEX 



3°5 



72 



59. 



Sakkaria, battle of the 231 

Salisbury, Lord 116 

San Remo Conference 214,221 

Sazonoff 172 

Schenck, Baron v. 172 

Schneider-Creusot firm 1 22 sq., 

224 
Secret International, quoted 151, 

*59 
Serbia 81, 171 

Sevres, treaty of 223 
Sewastopoulos 5 9 
Shearer case 220 
Siberia, ZaharofF in 33, 45 
Skoda firm 133, 139 
Skuludis 11, 18, 51 sq., 55, 

68 sq., 70, 74 
Smyrna 216, 222, 239 
Snowden, Lord 155, 158, 160 
Societe navale de l'Ouest 226 sq. 
Spezia 87 

Staikos, police chief 73 
Standard Oil Company 195, 

200, 223 sq., 236, 242, 261 
Straight, Mr., K.C. 60, 63 
Submarine, Nordenfeldt's 83 sq. 
Sykes-Picot treaty 198,212 
Syria 214 



Tardieu, Andre 228 
Tatavla 13, 19, 21, 22, 26 
Teagle, W. C. 223 
Thalman, Banque, 205 
Thomas, Albert 150 
Thompson, R. L. 109 sq. 
Times, The, quoted 61, 63, 
Townshend, General 197 



Trikoupis 69 

Tuck, Edward 225, 236 

Turkey, ZaharofF in 16 sq., 45, 

140 sq., 195 sq., 215 sq., 

251 sq. 
Turkish Petroleum Company 

J 97, 243 
Turot, Henri 174, 177 
Tyrrell, Lord 178 



United States and oil; v. Standard 

Oil 
Untermayer 



2 43, *59 



Venizelos, E. 11, 46, 171, 173, 

177,216,229,245,252 
Vickers Company 107, 

162, 163, 221, 226, 

287, 293 
Vickers, D. 159 
Vickers francaise 206 
Vickers-Terni 122, 140 
Villafranca, Duchess of 

101, 209, 251, 266, 276, 280 
Walford, L. H. G. 205, 210, 

251 
Walford, Paget 251 
Weekly Dispatch 72, 179, 244 
Wells, H. G., quoted 292 
Whitehead Torpedo Company 

158 
Wilkomir 17, 32, 40 
William, Archduke 88 
Wilson, Sir H. 219, 237 
Wolff, R. 138 



i'3> 
250, 



3», 



ZAHAROFF : THE ARMAMENTS KING 



306 

X., Rear Admiral 85 
Xenos, Steph. 74 

Young Turk Revolution 197 
Zacharias 19 



Zacharoff family 13 sq., 21, 37, 

73 
Zacharopoulos 40 
Zahar v. Sohar 
ZaharofF, Hyman B. 17, 20, 

21, 31 sq., 72 sq., 210, 296 
Zaharoff system, the 1 1 8 sq. 



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